Neither Black Nor White Yet Both: Thematic Explorations of Interracial Literature

Werner Sollors

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Why can a "white" woman give birth to a "black" baby, while a "black" woman can never give birth to a "white" baby in the United States? What makes racial "passing" so different from social mobility? Why are interracial and incestuous relations often confused or conflated in literature, making "miscegenation" appear as if it were incest? When did the myth that one can tell a person's race by the moon on their fingernails originate? How did blackness get associated with "the curse of Ham," when the Biblical text makes no reference to skin color at all? This book, an exploration of "interracial literature," examines these questions and others. In the past, interracial texts have been read more for a black-white contrast of "either-or" than for an interracial realm of "neither, nor, both, and in-between." Intermarriage prohibitions have been legislated throughout the modern period and were still in the law books in the 1980s. Stories of black-white sexual and family relations have thus run against powerful social taboos. Yet much interracial literature has been written, and this book suggests its pervasiveness and offers new comparative and historical contexts for understanding it. It ranges across time, space, and cultures, analysing scientific and legal works as well as poetry, fiction, and the visual arts, to explore the many themes and motifs interwoven throughout interracial literature. From the etymological origins of the term "race" to the cultural sources of the "Tragic Mulatto," the book examines recurrent images and ideas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages592
ISBN (Electronic)9780199855155
ISBN (Print)019505282X, 9780195052824
StatePublished - Oct 3 2011


  • Incest
  • Intermarriage prohibitions
  • Interracial literature
  • Miscegenation
  • Passing
  • Race
  • Skin color
  • Social mobility
  • Social taboos
  • Tragic Mulatto

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


Dive into the research topics of 'Neither Black Nor White Yet Both: Thematic Explorations of Interracial Literature'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this