LEWISTON – Eve Raimon, Ph.D., associate professor of arts and humanities at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College, has written a book on the subject of interracialism.

In “The Tragic Mulatta Revisited: Race and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century Antislavery Fiction,” published by Rutgers University Press, Raimon focuses on the mixed-race female slave in literature, arguing that this figure became a symbolic vehicle for explorations of race and nation – both of which were in crisis in the mid-19th century.

At this time, judicial, statutory, social and scientific debates about the meaning of racial difference (and intermixture) coincided with disputes over frontier expansion, which were not only about land acquisition but also about the “complexion” of that frontier.

Embodying northern and southern ideologies, the “amalgamated” mulatta, the author argues, can be viewed as quintessentially American, a precursor to contemporary motifs of “hybrid” and “mestizo” identities.

“For years I’ve been fascinated by the controversy surrounding this important and recurring character in stories and novels advocating the abolition of slavery,” said Raimon. “In this book, I look at the mixed-race female slave as perhaps not so tragic, but rather as a figure that both black and white writers used to work through the realities of racial intermixture in a nation still shaping its own racial and national identity.”

Where others have focused on the gendered and racially abject position of the “tragic mulatta,” Raimon reconsiders texts by such central antislavery writers as Lydia Maria Child, William Wells Brown, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Harriet Wilson to suggest that the figure is more usefully examined as a way of understanding the volatile and shifting interface of race and national identity in the ante-bellum period.


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