Impossible Purities: Blackness, Femininity, and Victorian Culture (Hardback)
  • Impossible Purities: Blackness, Femininity, and Victorian Culture (Hardback)
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Impossible Purities: Blackness, Femininity, and Victorian Culture (Hardback)

(author)
£86.00
Hardback 272 Pages / Published: 23/11/1998
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Using black feminist theory and African American studies to read Victorian culture, Impossible Purities looks at the construction of "Englishness" as white, masculine, and pure and "Americanness" as black, feminine, and impure. Brody's readings of Victorian novels, plays, paintings, and science fiction reveal the impossibility of purity and the inevitability of hybridity in representations of ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and race. She amasses a considerable amount of evidence to show that Victorian culture was bound inextricably to various forms and figures of blackness.
Opening with a reading of Daniel Defoe's "A True-Born Englishman," which posits the mixed origins of English identity, Brody goes on to analyze mulattas typified by Rhoda Swartz in William Thackeray's Vanity Fair, whose mixed-race status reveals the "unseemly origins of English imperial power." Examining Victorian stage productions from blackface minstrel shows to performances of The Octoroon and Uncle Tom's Cabin, she explains how such productions depended upon feminized, "black" figures in order to reproduce Englishmen as masculine white subjects. She also discusses H.G. Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau in the context of debates about the "new woman," slavery, and fears of the monstrous degeneration of English gentleman. Impossible Purities concludes with a discussion of Bram Stoker's novella, "The Lair of the White Worm," which brings together the book's concerns with changing racial representations on both sides of the Atlantic.
This book will be of interest to scholars in Victorian studies, literary theory, African American studies, and cultural criticism.

Publisher: Duke University Press
ISBN: 9780822321057
Number of pages: 272
Dimensions: 230 x 154 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
"Impossible Purities is a tour de force text that is certain to upset and 'repopulate' the canons of British, American, and African-American literary and cultural studies, never again allowing us to treat them as discrete categories. This is stunning, refreshingly original work, full of ingenious insights, strangely provocative pairings, and revealing 'hybridities,' all passionately expressed in beautifully lucid-someteimes even lyrical-prose replete with 'wish-I'd-said-that' turns of phrase."-Ann DuCille, author of Skin Trade
"Full of pathbreaking insights, Impossible Purities is a fascinating investigation into the performativity of race adn the complex and contradictory politics of hybridity."-Hazel Carby, author of Race Men
"Jennifer Brody is a brilliant scholar who displays a mastery of a dazzling range of subjects. Impossible Purities seems certain to transform our understanding of nineteenth-century literature in significant and lasting ways."-George Lipsitz, author of The Possessive Investment in Whiteness

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