Like Mother, Like Daughter?: Matrilineal Opposition in African American Mulatta Melodrama
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The article juxtaposes representations of mothers and daughters in selected African American novels that feature near-white female protagonists: W. W. Brown’s Clotel, Or the President’s Daughter (1853), Frances E. W. Harper’s Iola Leroy (1892), Charles Chesnutt’s The House behind the Cedars (1900), and Pauline Hopkins’s Hagar’s Daughter (1902). It explores the matrilineal opposition through a formalist close analysis of the melodramatic poetics of the texts and examines the political signifi cance of such aesthetic choices. The novels expose the American history of interracial relations through their foregrounding of the mulatta protagonists and numerous scenes of anagnorisis of their multiracial identities. Simultaneously, their “erotics of politics” rewards the choice of a black spouse and thus celebrates the emergence of the self-determined black community.
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