Introduction: ‘passing’ into the present: passing narratives then and now

Sinéad Moynihan

in Passing into the Present

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780719082290
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702727 | DOI:
Introduction: ‘passing’ into the present: passing narratives then and now

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Passing is typically associated with a period stretching from post-Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement (the 1890s to the 1960s) or, even more specifically, yoked to the years of the Harlem Renaissance. According to Gayle Wald, by the time John Howard Griffin's memoir, Black Like Me, appeared in 1961, ‘passing was already beginning to “pass” out of style for African Americans, going the way of Jim Crow buses and segregated lunch counters’. This book examines texts in which protagonists not only play at racial and gender identities, but where authors play on the boundaries between novel and other types of textual production, between fiction and history, between novelistic genres, between author(ial persona) and protagonist. It analyses novels that pass as memoirs, as well as narratives whose dramatic impetus often derives from embedded documentation: letters, emails, poems, medical reports, dictionary or encyclopaedia entries. The book argues that passing and postmodernism make compatible bedfellows, and that only by revealing the instability of the category of blackness can the equation of ‘race’ with ‘blackness’ be disputed and ultimately dismantled.

Keywords: passing; blackness; race; African Americans; novels; fiction; history; postmodernism; memoirs; narratives

Chapter.  8220 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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