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Whiteness Visible: The Meaning of Whiteness in American Literature

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Overview

In Whiteness Visible, Valerie Babb investigates the history, values, rituals, and shared consciousness that created whiteness in the United States, as well as the representations that sustain its influence on both cultural and literary vision. Babb formulates an understanding of whiteness by tracing its literary and cultural evolution, enlisting diverse sources from, among others, the Han dynasty, Aristotle's Politica, and excerpts from the recollections of white indentured servants.

Babb's textual analysis begins by surveying the construction of whiteness in early American writings and material culture, and continues through literature of the nineteenth century, surveying whiteness in texts commonly acknowledged as standards in U.S. literature—The Last of the Mohicans and Moby Dick. She then investigates representations of whiteness in a variety of late- nineteenth and early-twentieth century cultural creations, among them immigrant autobiographies, World's Fair expositions, and etiquette books. Babb convincingly illustrates the ways in which a variety of cultural creations combine to help shape the concept of universal whiteness.

Whiteness Visible boldly claims that we can only understand the full significance of race and the ways in which it influences cultural understanding and cultural creation in the United States when we interrogate whiteness and make it visible.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Babb (English, Georgetown U.) discusses theories of racial formation, the depiction of white identity in American literature, an instance in Moby Dick where white identity is deconstructed, and early 20th century immigrant autobiography as a guide to exploring some of the cultural agents--world's fairs, settlement houses, public schooling, and etiquette books--that codified representations of an ideal white identity. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814713020
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1998
  • Pages: 340
  • Product dimensions: 0.69 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 8.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Valerie Babb is Associate Professor of English at Georgetown University.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
List of Illustrations
Introduction 1
1 Toward a Philosophy of Whiteness 7
2 Crafting Whiteness in Early America 46
3 Of Whales and Whiteness 89
4 Hiding Whiteness in Plain Sight 118
5 Naming the Nameless for the Greater Good 167
Notes 179
Bibliography 201
Index 221
About the Author 227
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