This workshop will discuss a PRECIRCULATED chapter from Merav Schocken’s dissertation, “Functional Fictions: Practices of Self-Deception in 19th-Century America.” (Please click on the “Download Reading” button above to access the precirculated chapter.)
The chapter explores the narrative practices of self-deception that underlie the consolidation of proprietary whiteness in Jacksonian America. Schocken focuses on Robert Montgomery Bird’s Sheppard Lee (1836), claiming that the novel registers, and seeks to reconcile, anxieties among upper-class whites about the inclusion of propertyless white men in the electorate. Looking at the novel’s representation of whiteness as a neutral category as embodied by its propertyless white protagonist, Schocken argues that Black subjugation constituted a central yet crucially unacknowledged means by which the white subject, regardless of class, affirmed his belonging to the white man’s republic.
Merav Schocken is a PhD candidate in English at the University of California, Santa Barbara.