Date of Award

7-10-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Susan M. Comfort, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Ronald R. Emerick, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

David B. Downing, Ph.D.

Abstract

My intent for this study is to broaden an understanding of Lillian Hellman’s written works and her life by dealing with Hellman’s politics against an ideology of Colorism. Colorism constructs a world where people of color are otherized, alienated, theorized, and organized by the color white/whiteness over other colors/nonwhites. This study investigates how Hellman’s sociopolitical conscience and responsibility are constructed in her works and how these beliefs are reflected in her written works and her life. For this study, I analyze blackness, redness, and whiteness as a color-coded ideology hidden in a discourse of Colorism. I divide Lillian Hellman’s selected plays and memoirs into three groups based upon the colors black, red, and white as a color-coded ideology of Colorism; first, The Little Foxes (1939), Another Part of the Forest (1947), and An Unfinished Woman (1969); second, The Children’s Hour v (1934), The North Star (1943), and Scoundrel Time (1976); third, Watch on the Rhine (1941), The Searching Wind (1944), and “Julia” in Pentimento. I employ the first group to examine the ideology of the color black against the politics of hatred, otherizing different colors and Hellman’s obsession with the color black. For the second group I investigate the ideology of the sociopolitical color red against the politics of conspiracy and fear and Hellman’s obsession with the color red related to the Red Scare. The third group is arranged to study the people of honor and bravery against the ideology of whiteness. I relate color and race, color and ideology, and finally race and ideology in a discourse on the oppressive system of Colorism in a more global approach to Colorism. I reconceptualize the meaning of the term Colorism as an ideology that structures patriarchal gender, race, and political affiliation. The ideology also applies negative associations to communists and leftists by “coloring” them red. Analysis of sociopolitical and cultural color ideology as a reoccurring theme in history reveals the power of the white dominant culture and ideology as manifested in Colorism. It discloses economic inequality, social injustice, and “pigmentocracy” hinged on Colorism; whether racialized, symbolized, religious, gendered, or ideological.

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