Failed patriarchs, familial villains, and slaves to rum: White masculinity on trial in African American mulatta melodrama

Anna Pochmara


The article analyzes three African American mulatta melodramas from a masculinity studies perspective. Referring to the concepts of genteel patriarchy, the patrician paradigm, as well as the nineteenth-century reform discourse of temperance and self-restrained manliness, I demonstrate that the texts selected for analysis challenge the southern upper- class ideology of masculinity by contrasting it with northern mythology rooted in self- discipline. Yet despite their critique of southern men’s cultural practices and myths, the novels also explicitly point out that white gentlemen in the South fail to meet their own standards and definitions of masculinity. Finally, the uncanny similarity between the representations of white upper-class men in the novels and minstrel images of blackness makes it possible to read the mulatta melodramas as implicitly challenging contemporary retrogressionist mythology.



Melodrama; masculinity; reform movements; temperance

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