Paper Title

Caldwell's Sexual Transgressions: An Examination of Race, Gender, and Sexuality in God's Little Acre

Location

Room 223, DiGiorgio Campus Center (DiGs)

Start Date

April 2016

End Date

April 2016

Keywords

Gener, Race, Sexuality, Caldwell, God's Little Acre, Scottsboro Trials

Abstract

While the last few decades has seen growing critical interest in Erskine Caldwell’s God’s Little Acre, much of that attention is focused on the novel’s stylistic attributes or its critiques of class and economics. In his essay “An Extravagance of Laughter” Ralph Ellison recounts his disruptive laughter at a performance of the stage adaptation of Tobacco Road, which was brought on by his realization that Caldwell had written common racist tropes of black sexuality onto white bodies. Given that God’s Little Acre was published when nation was so keenly attuned to the Scottsboro trials, one must ask if this novel also uses white bodies to expose racial assumptions about black sexuality. Darling Jill, a sexually aggressive white woman, and Dave the albino, a black man with white skin and a problematically submissive sexuality, are especially suited to examining the novel’s transgressive cross-scripting of sexuality. This paper examines the gendered stereotypes of black sexuality prevailing during the first quarter of the twentieth century; the contributions of the Scottsboro trials to the raced and gendered national discourse of sexuality; and a close reading of the sexual relationship of Dave the albino and Darling Jill to uncover how race, gender, and sexuality converge in ways that call to question deeply-rooted assumptions about black sexuality.

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Apr 2nd, 10:30 AM Apr 2nd, 11:45 AM

Caldwell's Sexual Transgressions: An Examination of Race, Gender, and Sexuality in God's Little Acre

Room 223, DiGiorgio Campus Center (DiGs)

While the last few decades has seen growing critical interest in Erskine Caldwell’s God’s Little Acre, much of that attention is focused on the novel’s stylistic attributes or its critiques of class and economics. In his essay “An Extravagance of Laughter” Ralph Ellison recounts his disruptive laughter at a performance of the stage adaptation of Tobacco Road, which was brought on by his realization that Caldwell had written common racist tropes of black sexuality onto white bodies. Given that God’s Little Acre was published when nation was so keenly attuned to the Scottsboro trials, one must ask if this novel also uses white bodies to expose racial assumptions about black sexuality. Darling Jill, a sexually aggressive white woman, and Dave the albino, a black man with white skin and a problematically submissive sexuality, are especially suited to examining the novel’s transgressive cross-scripting of sexuality. This paper examines the gendered stereotypes of black sexuality prevailing during the first quarter of the twentieth century; the contributions of the Scottsboro trials to the raced and gendered national discourse of sexuality; and a close reading of the sexual relationship of Dave the albino and Darling Jill to uncover how race, gender, and sexuality converge in ways that call to question deeply-rooted assumptions about black sexuality.