From Melville to Saunders: Using Liminality to Uncover US-American Racial Fantasies

Lisa Seuberth


This paper offers a comparative reading of Herman Melville’s romance Moby Dick (1851) and George Saunders’s fantastic ghost story Lincoln in the Bardo (2017), tracing the reverberations of Toni Morrison’s ‘American Africanism’ as a specific kind of White supremacist discourse in both novels. After sketching nineteenth-century romance and recent fantasy literature as liminal genres fitting for a critical negotiation of the equally liminal Africanist presence, this paper shows how both novels employ liminality as a shared narrative strategy to transport their criticism on White supremacy and anti-Blackness.


American Africanism; White supremacy; nineteenth-century romance; twenty-first century fantasy; Whiteness; anti-Blackness; liminality

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