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The Construction of WhitenessAn Interdisciplinary Analysis of Race Formation and the Meaning of a White Identity$
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Stephen Middleton, David R. Roediger, and Donald M. Shaffer

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781496805553

Published to University Press of Mississippi: September 2017

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496805553.001.0001

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date: 18 December 2017

About Schmidt’s Whiteness

About Schmidt’s Whiteness

The Emotional Landscapes of WASP Masculinity

Chapter:
(p.181) 7 About Schmidt’s Whiteness
Source:
The Construction of Whiteness
Author(s):

Tim Engles

Publisher:
University Press of Mississippi
DOI:10.14325/mississippi/9781496805553.003.0008

Drawing on recent work in affect studies and on analyses of white masculinity in European American literature and other modes of cultural production, this essay explicates the depiction in Louis Begley’s novel About Schmidt (1996) of a contemporary white male psyche in crisis. Begley’s protagonist, 60-year old widower and recently retired lawyer Albert Schmidt, embodies and enacts the emotional atrophy and consequent “ugly feelings,” in Sianne Ngai’s terms, of a late-twentieth century, self-declared and self-sabotaging White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. In this satiric, traditionally literary novel, the central character demonstrates that in part because, in Thandeka’s psychoanalytic terms, he has “learned to be white” via identity-forming imaginings of racialized others, he has yet to achieve a mature degree of compassionate humanity

Keywords:   White masculinity, WASP, Emotional atrophy, Satire, Psychoanalytic

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