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Between Hoax and Hope: Miscegenation and Nineteenth-Century Interracial Romance

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Abstract

This essay surveys recent scholarship on interracial romance during the nineteenth century using the hoax Miscegenation pamphlet of 1863 as a lens. An anonymous and ironic piece of writing that promoted race-mixing from a deceptively Republican perspective, Miscegenation coined the titular term, newly situating interracial relationships within a Latinate, pseudo-scientific framework. It also encouraged romance between white women and black men, an endorsement that was designed to enrage its white male readership but in fact gave hope to some white women who were unable to articulate their interracial desire publicly. Using this double focus, I explore how nineteenth-century authors of interracial romance borrowed the language of science, such as “hybridity” and “crossing”; how they employed the concept of “blood-mixing” as both sexual and medicinal (via transfusions); and I read the Miscegenation pamphlet as a kind of scientific romance fiction itself.

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