Liminality and Otherness: Exploring Transcultural Space in Rita Dove’s The Yellow House on the Corner
Roy, Lekha; Ringo, Rano
This paper studies postcolonial responses to prescriptive racial affiliations in contemporary America, tracing the transition of ‘race’ from a biological to a sociocultural concept, and the related rejection of modernist binaries in African-American writing after the 1970s. In her first collection of poems, The Yellow House on the Corner, published in 1980, Rita Dove deconstructs race as a dynamic construct encoded in linguistic and cultural signifiers that turned ethnocentrism into a hegemonic tool rejected by poets writing towards the end of the twentieth century. Positing that Dove’s travels through Europe provide for a cultural and linguistic sensibility that is liminal in its repudiation of cultural absolutism, the paper argues that her writing foreshadows a post-ethnic decentring of race through formulating non-prescriptive affiliations that transcend the colour line. Foregrounding history as a personal, transcultural space where frames of memory are juxtaposed to reveal the constructed nature of racially informed identities and affiliations, the poems create what Steffens terms ‘artistic enspacement’ (28), exhibiting a post-black sensibility that revisits race, memory and history as racialised psycho-spatial domains, and celebrating the fluid nature of identity construction as a journey that must deconstruct race through a transatlantic crossing-over into the domain of the white to reclaim its share in history.
African American literature, Black identities, Rita Dove, history, memory, poetry, race