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Realism’s Racial Gaze and Stephen Crane’s The Monster: A Lacanian Reading

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Sheldon George
Sheldon George

Abstract


The article presents Stephen Crane’s The Monster as a realist text that conveys the inability of American society in the 1890s to define itself through use of stereotyped knowledge of racial others. It reads the character Henry Johnson, a black man whose face is “burned away” in a house-fire, leaving behind only a single winking eye, as a literary embodiment of the all-seeing Lacanian gaze that, through the returned look of the racial other, confronts realist America with its own lack. Henry destabilises fantasies of an insular white identity through his performative mimicry of white dress and mannerism. He allows the text to present race as grounded only in performance and a discourse of white superiority. The Monster refutes this discourse, suggesting it is sanction for a brutal monstrosity at the heart of America, one that the returned gaze of the scrutinising racial other now witnesses through the spectacle of America’s racist and imperialistic practices.

Keywords


crane; lacan; psychoanalysis; the monster; realism

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References


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