Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2011

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Porter, Horace A

First Committee Member

Stecopoulos, Harilaos

Second Committee Member

Fox, Claire F

Third Committee Member

Thaggert, Miriam

Fourth Committee Member

Carrillo-Rowe, Aimee


This project discusses the aesthetic representations of biracial (i.e. African American and Anglo-American) femininity that have persistently occurred in fiction, non-fiction, magazine and film from the antebellum era through the turn of the twenty-first century. It spans the first novel published by an African American (Clotel by William Wells Brown, 1852) through the Oscar-winning movie Monster's Ball (2001), for which the biracial Halle Berry became the first self-identified African American to win the Best Actress award. Various chapters scrutinize biracial characters that appear in nineteenth and twentieth century novels and memoirs, while others contemplate landmark but often controversial films from later generations. Finally, it concludes with an analysis of the memoirs of several emerging contemporary writers and public figures who accept and who ultimately embrace all of what they are (e.g. Sadie and Bessie Delany, Having Our Say, 1993, Bliss Broyard, One Drop, 2007, Danzy Senna, Where Did You Sleep Last Night, 2009).

While the "tragedy" of the "tragic" mulatta's existence more obviously connotes the heroine's inner torment over her inability to racially "belong," this project focuses on interpreting "tragedy" in the literal, visceral sense, via the heroine's untimely and often brutal death, and any abuses that she may suffer. Existent research on the tragic mulatta has minimally addressed the role of appearance and visceral suffering in the heroine's life; the causes and consequences of the heroine's actual, visceral demise are less studied than the metaphorical or psychological implications of "tragedy."


viii, 238 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 233-238).


Copyright 2011 Marta Alaina Holliday