Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Cross-Racial Transference brings to light the centrality of racial(ized) affects in American modernist literature. While modernist studies has considered melancholy to be the universal affective reaction to the sense of alienation pervasive in modernity, Cross-Racial Transference explores the role of race in affective experiences of modernity and argues that transference is an affective modality that American modernist writers, both white and Black, sought to actualize in their literary texts. In particular, this project locates scenes of cross-racial encounter (between characters, between characters and the author, and between the text and the reader) in the works of Gertrude Stein, William Faulkner, and James Baldwin, and reads them in the framework of what I call cross-racial transference. Recasting the Freudian model of transference, which centers on the dynamics between affect and narrativization, in the context of cross-racial encounters, Cross-Racial Transference theorizes how American modernist writers register racialized affects in their narrative discourses, creating new, anti-melancholic narratives about race that link embodied affective experiences to a historical understanding of racialization and racism in the U.S.

In so doing, Cross-Racial Transference also extensively engages with queer of color critique, which examines the intertwined historical constructions of race, gender, and sexuality. Recent scholars such as Darieck Scott, Alexander G. Weheliye, Calvin Warren, and R. A. Judy especially build on Hortense J. Spillers’ theorization of the enfleshment of Black bodies to explore how the Black flesh has been excluded from the realm of gendered difference and has functioned as a repository for white people’s fears about, as well as desire for, unrestrained sexuality. As such, the enfleshment of Black bodies denotes their extreme vulnerability to physical and affective violence. At the same time, however, I contend that the historical experience of enfleshment has endowed Black people with a capability for corporeal intimacies that elude white society’s overdetermination of racial-sexual meanings. Cross-Racial Transference thus identifies the Black flesh as a key site of cross-racial transference and explores white subjects’ intensely affective encounters with the Black flesh and their fleshly mode of being.



Committee Chair

Kahan, Benjamin A.

Available for download on Tuesday, July 16, 2030