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Legal Fictions: Constituting Race, Composing Literature

By
Karla FC Holloway
Karla FC Holloway

Karla FC Holloway is James B. Duke Professor of English at Duke University, where she also holds appointments in the Law School, Women's Studies, and African & African American Studies, and is an affiliated faculty with the Institute on Care at the End of Life and the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine. She serves on the Greenwall Foundation's Advisory Board in Bioethics, and was recently elected to the Hastings Center Fellows Association. Holloway is the author of BookMarks: Reading in Black and White and Codes of Conduct: Race, Ethics, and the Color of Our Character, as well as Private Bodies, Public Texts: Race, Gender, and a Cultural Bioethics and Passed On: African American Mourning Stories: A Memorial, both published by Duke University Press.

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Duke University Press
ISBN electronic:
978-0-8223-7705-4
Publication date:
2014

In Legal Fictions, Karla FC Holloway both argues that U.S. racial identity is the creation of U.S. law and demonstrates how black authors of literary fiction have engaged with the law's constructions of race since the era of slavery. Exploring the resonance between U.S. literature and U.S. jurisprudence, Holloway reveals Toni Morrison's Beloved and Charles Johnson's Middle Passage as stories about personhood and property, David Bradley's The Chaneysville Incident and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man as structured by evidence law, and Nella Larsen's Passing as intimately related to contract law. Holloway engages the intentional, contradictory, and capricious constructions of race embedded in the law with the same energy that she brings to her masterful interpretations of fiction by U.S. writers. Her readings shed new light on the many ways that black U.S. authors have reframed fundamental questions about racial identity, personhood, and the law from the nineteenth into the twenty-first centuries. Legal Fictions is a bold declaration that the black body is thoroughly bound by law and an unflinching look at the implications of that claim.

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