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American BloodThe Ends of the Family in American Literature, 1850-1900$
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Holly Jackson

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199317042

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199317042.001.0001

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National Reproduction and Clotel’s Queer Mulatta

National Reproduction and Clotel’s Queer Mulatta

Chapter:
(p.46) Chapter 2 National Reproduction and Clotel’s Queer Mulatta
Source:
American Blood
Author(s):

Holly Jackson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199317042.003.0002

This chapter offers a new reading of the “tragic mulatta” trope, arguing that William Wells Brown’s Clotel; Or, The President’s Daughter (1853) radically embraces the association of this figure with sterility and national death, linking mid-century theories of hybrid infertility to anxieties concerning the nation’s crisis of political continuity on the brink of the Civil War. Through an analysis of the relationship between death, socially deviant sexualities, and citizenship, Clotel stokes the pervasive fear of demographic crisis in antebellum America to call for a national rupture that would end the hereditary oppression of African Americans. This repositions the “mulatta” not as a “tragic” trope but as a figure of queer negativity. This chapter introduces new findings about the sources and print history of Clotel’s climactic leap from the Long Bridge, namely that this narrative was written and published by Congressman Seth M. Gates in 1842.

Keywords:   Tragic mulatto/a, queer mulatta, Long Bridge, Gates, Seth M, hybrid infertility theory, Brown, William Wells, Clotel; or, The President’s Daughter

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