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The Romance of Race

The Romance of Race: Incest, Miscegenation, and Multiculturalism in the United States, 1880-1930

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    The Romance of Race
    Book Description:

    In the United States miscegenation is not merely a subject of literature and popular culture. It is in many ways the foundation of contemporary imaginary community.The Romance of Raceexamines the role of minority women writers and reformers in the creation of our modern American multiculturalism.The national identity of the United States was transformed between 1880 and 1930 due to mass immigration, imperial expansion, the rise of Jim Crow, and the beginning of the suffrage movement. A generation of women writers and reformers-particularly women of color-contributed to these debates by imagining new national narratives that put minorities at the center of American identity. Jane Addams, Pauline Hopkins, Onoto Watanna (Winnifred Eaton), María Cristina Mena, and Mourning Dove (Christine Quintasket) embraced the images of the United States-and increasingly the world-as an interracial nuclear family. They also reframed public debates through narratives depicting interracial encounters as longstanding, unacknowledged liaisons between white men and racialized women that produced an incestuous, mixed-race nation.By mobilizing the sexual taboos of incest and miscegenation, these women writers created political allegories of kinship and community. Through their criticisms of the nation's history of exploitation and colonization, they also imagined a more inclusive future. As Jolie A. Sheffer identifies the contemporary template for American multiculturalism in the works of turn-of-the century minority writers, she uncovers a much more radical history than has previously been considered.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-5464-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    In a variety of popular fictions published in the United States around the turn of the twentieth century by authors who share no obvious ethnic/racial, literary, or personal ties, certain conventions appear again and again: mixed-race protagonists (mulatto/a, mestizo/a, half-caste, and half-breed), caught between two cultural “worlds,” struggle to find their place, a dilemma illustrated through their romantic attachments. These mixed-race heroes, and especially heroines, are the product of previous generations of interracial romance or conquest between privileged and mobile white men (slave owners, missionaries, businessmen, sailors, and other fortune-seekers) and the racialized women with whom they came into contact....

  6. 1 Mulattos, Mysticism, and Marriage: African American Identity and Psychic Integration
    (pp. 27-54)

    In this chapter, I analyze a figure whose revision of the conventions of race and romance marks a crucial moment in the transformation of American models of national identity. Pauline Hopkins was arguably the most influential African American woman writing during the first decade of the twentieth century. Her novelOf One Bloodpresents miscegenation and incest to be the very basis of American politics, economics, and society. Coupling the incest plot with such fantastical elements as ghosts, suspended animation, animal magnetism, and a lost African civilization, Hopkins imagines the United States as a national family in denial of its...

  7. 2 Half-Caste Family Romances: Divergent Paths of Asian American Identity
    (pp. 55-90)

    In “A Contract” (1902), one of Winnifred Eaton’s popular Orientalist romances published under the pen name Onoto Watanna, O-Kiku-san, a young Japanese woman, explains to her suitor, the Japanese-born but racially white businessman Masters, the difference between citizenship and belonging. She tells him, “You Japanese citizen sure thing . . . all the same you jus’ foreigner, all the same” (55).¹ Masters protests, insisting: “You are trying to rob me of my birthright. Am I or am I not Japanese?” (56). Kiku’s answer is unwavering: “Japanese citizen, yes. . . . Japanese man? No, naever” (56). Speaking as a full-blooded...

  8. 3 The Mexican Mestizo/a in the Mexican American Imaginary
    (pp. 91-118)

    In the previous two chapters, I showed how the racial romance traveled from African American literature featuring the “mulatto/a” to Winnifred Eaton’s “half-castes,” doing important cultural work to imagine a multicultural, mixed-race nation. In the early twentieth century, the racial romance also came to apply tomestizos, the national figure of mixed-race Mexico and Mexican America. Like Winnifred Eaton’s fictionalization of U.S. militarism and economic involvement in Japan, the Mexican American writer María Cristina Mena shows how U.S. trade in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries permanently transformed Mexico. Mena further suggests that the Mexican Revolution of 1910—in which rebels...

  9. 4 Half-Breeds and Homesteaders: Native/American Alliances in the West
    (pp. 119-148)

    I have now illustrated several variations of the racial romance as used by women authors to urge their U.S. readers to recognize nonwhite minorities as members of the national family. Fictions featuring mulattos, half-castes, and mestizos made visceral the nation’s history of exploitation, while also modeling more egalitarian social relations. Mourning Dove’s novelCogewea: The Half Blood, A Depiction of the Great Montana Cattle Rangefeatures the mixed-race offspring of Native American and white parentage. This novel’s version of the racial romance emerges in response to the particular historical inequalities facing Native Americans in the United States in the age...

  10. 5 Blood and Blankets: Americanizing European Immigrants through Cultural Miscegenation and Textile Reproduction
    (pp. 149-170)

    In the previous chapters I have explored the common ground between incest and miscegenation in North American fictions by minority writers who sought to expose the racial and gender inequalities between white men and racialized women. But where do European immigrants fit within the racial romance? How does the racial romance work for ethnic minorities who were legally identified as “white,” yet were not accepted as fully, authentically “American”?¹ How did women reformers adapt the racial romance in order to argue for the inclusion of these provisional “white folks”? In this chapter, I study Progressive Era reformer Jane Addams’s Hull-House...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 171-178)

    The Romance of Racehas illustrated the extent to which miscegenation and incest were dangerous and powerful tropes deployed in literature and popular culture as a means to reimagine racial and ethnic minorities as members of the national family. A remarkable array of U.S.-based women writers redefined African Americans, Asian Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans, and European immigrants as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, husbands and wives through the common language of the racial romance. These compelling fictions reached national audiences in magazines, best-selling novels, newspapers, and a museum, nudging public opinion through their emotional stories...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 179-208)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 209-224)
  14. Index
    (pp. 225-233)