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Faulkner and Whiteness$
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Jay Watson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9781617030208

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781617030208.001.0001

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date: 22 September 2018

“A Strange Nigger”

“A Strange Nigger”

Faulkner and the Minstrel Performance of Whiteness

(p.92) “A Strange Nigger”
Faulkner and Whiteness

John N. Duvall

University Press of Mississippi

In contrast to the assertions of many racist characters in Yoknapatawpha County, William Faulkner’s fiction repeatedly shows that race is always mediated by performance rather than a simple matter of essence or biology. In particular, Faulkner illustrates an opening between racial and cultural identity through certain reflections on the racist term “nigger.” This chapter argues that Faulkner’s fictional explorations of racial performance were influenced not only by American blackface minstrelsy but also by the conventions of an older European whiteface minstrelsy, allowing him to stress the fact “that not all Caucasians are fully white in a South that wishes to absolutize all racial difference.” It considers two classes of Caucasians not granted full southern whiteness in Faulkner’s world: poor whites and those characters who exhibit sexual or gender ambiguity. Finally, the chapter examines the figurative blackness of a number of presumptively white characters in Faulkner’s fiction, including the verse play The Marionettes and the novel Mosquitoes.

Keywords:   whiteness, William Faulkner, race, nigger, blackface, minstrelsy, whiteface, Caucasians, poor whites, blackness

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