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Reaping Something NewAfrican American Transformations of Victorian Literature$
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Daniel Hack

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691196930

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691196930.001.0001

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Affiliating With George Eliot

Affiliating With George Eliot

Chapter:
(p.76) Chapter Three Affiliating With George Eliot
Source:
Reaping Something New
Author(s):

Daniel Hack

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691196930.003.0004

This chapter looks at George Eliot's usage of the “unwitting passing and voluntary racial affiliation” scenario in her works and what it means for African American writers. Virtually no other major British writer ever told it at all. By contrast, a number of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century American writers—most of them African American—constructed this same scenario, almost invariably in stories about African American identity. Within American literary history, such stories are legible as refutations of what has come to be known as the tragic mulatto/a plot. In stories with this plot, the discovery that a character who has believed himself or herself to be white has some African ancestry is cataclysmic, leading directly to enslavement, sexual violation, madness, and/or death.

Keywords:   George Eliot, racial affiliation, African American identity, tragic mulatto, tragic plot, African ancestry, African American writers

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