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The Tar BabyA Global History$
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Bryan Wagner

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780691172637

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691172637.001.0001

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The Briar Patch

The Briar Patch

(p.90) Chapter Five The Briar Patch
The Tar Baby

Bryan Wagner

Princeton University Press

This chapter explores how, according to the most common interpretation, the briar patch stands as a metaphor for culture, sometimes a subculture sustained by either de facto or de jure segregation. Some critics, including Larry Neal, suggest that the rabbit's escape proves the problem of subjectivity posed in the encounter with the tar baby was never as difficult as other critics have believed. According to Neal, the recognition denied first by the property owner and then by the tar baby is consistently available to the rabbit in the briar patch. The “confusion and absurdity” dramatized when the rabbit believes the tar baby will talk back to him is not an example of the existential quandary of blackness.

Keywords:   briar patch, culture, de facto segregation, de jure segregation, Larry Neal, tar baby, subjectivity, blackness

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