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White Writers, Race MattersFictions of Racial Liberalism from Stowe to Stockett$
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Gregory S. Jay

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190687229

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190687229.001.0001

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Speaking of Abjection

Speaking of Abjection

White Writing and Black Resistance in Kathryn Stockett’s the Help

(p.286) { 6 } Speaking of Abjection
White Writers, Race Matters

Gregory S. Jay

Oxford University Press

The genre of the white liberal race novel was revived in 2009 by Stockett’s bestseller and its high-profile Hollywood film version. Much controversy broke out over the novel’s depiction of black maids in early 1960s Jackson, Mississippi, which was a center of Civil Rights activism and white backlash. Were these characters stereotypes or deconstructions of the “mammy” figure? The chapter demonstrates that the narrative sections told by the maids contain much subversion, and that even the white protagonist exhibits resistance to orthodox female gender norms. Understanding the novel also requires attention to its specific historical setting amidst the Civil Rights tumult in Mississippi and Alabama during the years in which the novel is set, including the attempt to integrate the universities in those two states and the assassination of Medgar Evers. These events belong to the theme of the necessity for change reiterated throughout the novel.

Keywords:   Civil Rights Movement, Jim Crow, Domestic Labor, Feminism, Racial Stereotypes, Film Adaptations

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