"A single white line running through a web of blackness": racism's occlusion from the Anti-Tom novel to Charlottesville

Mitterauer, David (2019) "A single white line running through a web of blackness": racism's occlusion from the Anti-Tom novel to Charlottesville. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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This MA thesis discusses how romance as a literary form makes the Anti-Tom novel a malleable rhetorical vehicle to carry white supremacist ideology. Drawing on an interdisciplinary framework of postcolonial theory and race studies, the thesis analyzes antebellum Anti-Tom novels (Sarah J. Hale’s Liberia [1853]; Caroline Lee Hentz’s The Planter’s Northern Bride [1854]; and Charles Jacobs Peterson’s The Cabin and Parlor [1852]) and expands the genre’s definition to include Thomas Dixon’s The Leopard’s Spots (1902) and contemporary white-supremacist science fictions (William Luther Pierce’s The Turner Diaries [1978]; Ellen Williams’ Bedford: A World Vision [2000]; and Ward Kendall’s Hold Back This Day [2001]). The primary concerns of this thesis are to understand how the American slaveholding past signifies in the present political moment, to understand why the removal of the General Robert E. Lee statue catalyzed the violent riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, and to understand the affective preconditions Donald J. Trump created for this violence through racist rhetoric. The thesis argues that the pastoral romance changes in each new context. In the antebellum Anti-Tom novel it is tied to an idealized white plantocratic identity that is juxtaposed with the specter of black insurrection. In Dixon, open violence becomes a constitutive part. In the science fictions, violence becomes an intrinsic component of whiteness itself. The exploration permits inter alia an understanding of how Civil-War monuments can be detached from their historical contexts and repurposed for a current political movement. The thesis calls for opening a serious inquiry by legislators, academics, and teachers into white-supremacist literature rather than eschewing white-supremacist artefacts for fear of radicalization (or out of revulsion). It is in literature that white-supremacist ideologues communicate with a wider public by abandoning the obscurity of white-supremacist sophistry and drawing on existing literary traditions.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/13968
Item ID: 13968
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 127-151).
Keywords: Anti-Tom, antebellum, Charlottesville, white supremacy, Alt-Right, Thomas Dixon, The Leopard's Spots, science fiction, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Caroline Lee Hentz, Charles Jacobs Peterson, Sarah J. Hale, William Pierce, Ellen Williams, Ward Kendall, Bedford: A World Vision, The Turner Diaries, Hold Back This Day, Donald J. Trump, Confederate Monuments, postcolonial studies, race studies
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: August 2019
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Pastoral fiction, American; White supremacy movements--Fiction; Racism in literature

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