Mourning "Veils": Racialization through Gothic Tropes in the Writings of William Faulkner and Kazuo Ishiguro

Summer 2018

Mieko Kurata Anders : English, Sociology

Donor: Anselm A&H Fund
Mentor: Steven Lee

My project will explore the ideological implications of racialization through gothic tropes in William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury (1929) and Kazuo Ishiguro’s first two novels, A Pale View of Hills (1982) and An Artist of the Floating World (1986). Specifically, I will reframe Faulkner’s use of the Southern Gothic genre to configure a postwar Asian Gothic through Ishiguro’s early work, generating a new cross-racial, trans-historical perspective on literary representations of “racial melancholia.” Why, I will ask, did the historical contexts of the postbellum American South and postwar Japan, both “cultures of defeat” (Schivelbusch) tasked with refiguring national identity, give rise to such eerie, macabre constructions of race in literature? Focusing on melancholia through the lens of oppression’s perpetrators rather than its victims, I will analyze the gothic genre’s potential as a limited redeemer of historical trauma and provide a more nuanced account of W.E.B. Du Bois’s notion of “the color line,” one that envisions manifestations of racial oppression as necessarily relational yet inherently problematic as such.

I would like to extend my deepest thanks to the Anselm Fund for your incredible generosity in supporting this project. Because of your contribution, I was able to travel to UT Austin to perform archival work on a vast collection of materials that has, because of its novelty, yet to be studied rigorously at all. From this work, I'll be able to generate entirely original scholarship on an author I have not only admired personally for years, but whose writing will inform my research for years to come. Having the ability to sit with my thoughts for the duration of the summer allowed me to come to understand my long-term goals, both academic and personal, in a way that would have been impossible had I had to work another job simultaneously. As a person with many competing interests, especially in largely underfunded humanities disciplines, that privilege has been invaluable. Your support will enable me to approach graduate school, as well as even the precarious job market that follows it, with confidence in the importance of intellectual research for its own sake, as well as the assurance that I can reach the goals I set for myself, despite how unreachable they might seem at the outset. Thank you so much.