Rethinking White Female Silences: Kate Chopin’s Local Color Fiction and the Politics of White Supremacy

Sandra Gunning

in Rape, Race, and Lynching

Published in print February 1997 | ISBN: 9780195099904
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199855100 | DOI:

Series: Race and American Culture

Rethinking White Female Silences: Kate Chopin’s Local Color Fiction and the Politics of White Supremacy

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This chapter sets forth a review of the recently canonized white woman writer Kate Chopin as an attempt to expand the assumed record of American women's responses to lynching. Chopin has always been portrayed as sympathetic to the New Woman movement because of her iconoclastic representation of female sexual rebellion in The Awakening (1899). In her first novel At Fault (1890) and short stories In Sabine (1893) and A No-Account Creole (1894), the ethnically and racially diverse New Orleans and Cane River regions of Louisiana are marked by a record of racial violence during Reconstruction. She recalls bloody days of Reconstruction and in her depiction of post-Civil War white French Creole society, makes aggression target both people of color and white outsides. The chapter also discusses Chopin's connection to the South and her marriage to Louisiana-born Oscar Chopin. It ends with readings of A Lady of Bayou St. John (1893) and La Belle Zora'ide (1894), which challenge restrictive notions of white female sexuality resulting from the alternate stereotype of the immoral black woman. Chopin was able to repudiate white supremacist constructions of black sexuality as monstrous, something that was suppressed in Dixon's fiction. All this allowed Chopin to reveal the complex entanglement among white supremacist public discourses, and to spread white writing on regional and community development, especially nonpolitical fiction, as she subtly suggests a vision of white supremacy that liberates and confines.

Keywords: white; women; lynching; Kate Chopin; Louisiana; Reconstruction

Chapter.  13379 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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