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Nation, Miscegenation, and the Myth of the Mulatta/o Monster 1859–1886

Murphy, Jessica Alexandra Maeve.   Universite de Montreal (Canada) ProQuest Dissertations Publishing,  2009. NR60321.

Abstract (summary)

"Nation, Miscegenation, and The Myth of the Mulatta/o Monster, 1859–1886" examines how Harriet Wilson, Harriet Jacobs, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and Robert Louis Stevenson use the trope of the mulatta/o monster only to subvert it by showing readers that the real monster is white, hegemonic culture. More specifically, it deals with how Our Nig, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, The Octoroon, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde depict the interracial body as a gothic house, one which is a microcosm for an increasingly hybrid and un-homely nation. The four texts under consideration in my thesis all explore what it means to be black and female (or dark and feminized) in the United States and Britain where to be white, male, and affluent is to have virtually limitless power over the bodies of women, particularly black ones.

Drawing upon Nancy Stean's notion of "proper places," this dissertation looks at how interracial individuals challenged existing hierarchies in the mid-to-late nineteenth century by defying racial, gender, and class norms nationally and transatlantically. While many scientists of the period believed that mixed-race people were infertile and headed for extinction, the proliferation of such individuals attests to the fact that the number of racially hybrid people was increasing, not decreasing. For many Victorians and their American counterparts, the rise in this population as well as the shifting roles of black and white women, black men, and the working class compelled them to label these groups. It also heightened their concern with degeneration and their need to polarize black/white, female/male, and rich/poor. Yet, as this project shows, while such binaries are necessarily porous, England and the United States both made use of them to establish and define their national identities vis-à-vis one another. Whereas American writers like Jacobs and Wilson relied on such constructs to shame their country and to shape its future, British ones like Braddon used them to allege national superiority or, like Robert Louis Stevenson, later on in the nineteenth century, to reveal the changing face of the nation.

Indexing (details)

Black studies;
American literature;
African American studies;
British & Irish literature
Morrison, Toni (1931-2019); Stevenson, Robert Louis (1850-1894); Wells, H G (1866-1946); Bronte, Emily (1818-1848); Douglass, Frederick (1818-1895); Stowe, Harriet Beecher (1811-1896); Stoker, Bram (1847-1912); Grimke, Angelina Weld (1880-1958); Braddon, Mary Elizabeth (1837-1915); Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft (1797-1851); Lombroso, Cesare (1835-1909); Darwin, Charles (1809-1882)
0296: African American Studies
0325: Black studies
0591: American literature
0593: British and Irish literature
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Language, literature and linguistics; Braddon, Mary Elizabeth; Jacobs, Harriet E.; Miscegenation; Monstrosity; Mulatta; Scotland; Stevenson, Robert Louis; Wilson, Harriet; Mulatto; Race; Gender; Home; England; American; Transatlantic; Nineteenth century
Nation, Miscegenation, and the Myth of the Mulatta/o Monster 1859–1886
Murphy, Jessica Alexandra Maeve
Number of pages
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 71/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Universite de Montreal (Canada)
University location
Canada -- Quebec, CA
Source type
Dissertation or Thesis
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL