Date of Award
Master of Arts in English
African American Studies; Literature
Visibility and invisibility are long-standing tropes in the African-American literary tradition. Frequently they are presented in satiric language. I argue that Paul Beatty's Mann Booker Award-winning novel The Sellout now holds an important role in this tradition. Specifically, The Sellout hearkens specifically to Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and to Paul Beatty's earlier novel The White Boy Shuffle. Further, The Sellout exposes the ongoing presence and function of racism in an America that has elected its first African-American president, Barack Obama, and that now claims to be "post-racial," even as its spectral reproduction and commodification of blackness persist. By analyzing the four primary male characters, I show that the novel concludes that America is not yet ready for true multicultural heterogeneity because neither white America nor black America has truly reconciled itself with America's historical and continuing racism, and I show that the novel's solution is an anti-racist philosophy of "Unmitigated Blackness."
Davies, John E., "The Sellout by Paul Beatty: "Unmitigated Blackness" in Obama's America" (2018). ETD Archive. 1117.