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Blurring the Color Line: Racial and Sexual Thresholds in Sidonie de La Houssaye's Les Quarteronnes de la Nouvelle-Orléans


Sidonie de La Houssaye's 1890s tetralogy Les Quarteronnes de la Nouvelle-Orléans features ambiguous representations of women of color, simultaneously drawing on well-worn stereotypes and endowing these characters with complex personalities and considerable agency. This article examines these representations through the inscription of gendered racial hierarchies into the narrative spaces of the series, tracing how de La Houssaye alternately establishes and obfuscates borders between normative and Other identities and sexualities. Personal mobility enables the titular characters of these novels to acquire new racial and gender identities. I argue that Les Quarteronnes thereby reveals the parochial and patriarchal underpinnings of post-Reconstruction racism in Louisiana, thereby challenging the essentialisms undergirding such ideologies.


Mary Greenwood
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