Ambiguity and the Ethics of Reading Race and Lynching in James W. Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912)

Carmen Dexl

Abstract


James Weldon Johnson’s novel The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912) discusses the causes, conditions, and implications of passing in a segregated society. The essay argues that the novel’s aesthetics of ambiguity conveys and reflects an ambivalence towards the concept of race. Using theories of Geoffrey Galt Harpham and John Guillory, it elaborates an ethics of reading race and lynching in The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man.

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