Home WakeSpace Scholarship › Electronic Theses and Dissertations

PASSING AS JEWISH: THE MATERIAL CONSEQUENCES OF RACE AND THE PROPERTY OF WHITENESS IN LATE TWENTIETH-CENTURY PASSING NOVELS

Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Item Files

Item Details

abstract
This thesis discusses passing and performing as Jewish in Mona in the Promised Land by Gish Jen, Caucasia by Danzy Senna, and The Human Stain by Philip Roth. In the introduction, I provide historical background on the development of the concept of race, Jewish American assimilation, and racial passing. In Chapter 1, I demonstrate that in Mona in the Promised Land, Gish Jen uses an intentionally asymmetrical juxtaposition between Jewish and Asian Americans and African Americans to argue that racial assimilation relies on the acquisition of whiteness. In Chapter 2, I discuss how Senna shows the development of American multiracialism as it relates to Jewish identity, and demonstrates the role of Jewish identity in constructions of race, ethnicity, and identity in Caucasia. In Chapter 3, I show that the protagonist’s passing narrative in The Human Stain mirrors the path of the American Jew across the color line during the twentieth century, and that Roth uses the protagonist’s ambiguous racial identity to show that it is impossible to escape societal labels and affiliations. In the conclusion, I provide a brief comparative analysis of how and why each text appropriates Jewishness. Ultimately, this thesis examines how other ethnoracial groups have interacted with Jewish Americans and how ethnic identity formations and designations are both complicated and dismantled by Jewishness. I conclude that contemporary representations of Jewish identity in passing narratives reclaim the power of Jewish identity to disrupt and dismantle the ideology of racial essentialism.
subject
African American
American literature
Asian American
identity
Jewish American
whiteness
contributor
Mullis, Courtney James (author)
Franco, Dean J (committee chair)
Still, Erica L (committee member)
Brown, Christopher M (committee member)
date
2017-06-15T08:35:33Z (accessioned)
2019-06-14T08:30:13Z (available)
2017 (issued)
degree
English (discipline)
embargo
2019-06-14 (terms)
identifier
http://hdl.handle.net/10339/82168 (uri)
language
en (iso)
publisher
Wake Forest University
title
PASSING AS JEWISH: THE MATERIAL CONSEQUENCES OF RACE AND THE PROPERTY OF WHITENESS IN LATE TWENTIETH-CENTURY PASSING NOVELS
type
Thesis

Usage Statistics