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Vol. 2 No. 1 (2020): Early Career Americanists: An AYA Special Issue

The Dissolution of Racial Boundaries: Colonial Diction and Mixed-Race Representations in Natasha Trethewey's Thrall

November 29, 2019


As the field of mixed-race studies continues to expand, my article adds to this growth by analyzing the representation of mixed-race children in Natasha Trethewey's Thrall in relation to the corresponding Mexican casta paintings she refers to. I explore how Trethewey uses diction and etymology in Thrall by performing close readings of her Mexican casta painting poems. Throughout my analysis, I pay special attention to how aspects of knowledge and colonialism affect the portrayal of these mixed-race offspring. The aim of this article is to demonstrate that Trethewey skillfully uses diction and etymology to emphasize the relationship between knowledge and power, particularly with regard to the representation of mixed-race people in society. Trethewey intertwines mixed-race representation and experiences that seem disparate—her poems cross geographical, temporal, and spatial boundaries—in order to illustrate how mixed-race peoples' positioning and representation in society often transcends such boundaries while additionally critically assessing power dynamics controlling said representation. Accordingly, by closely examining the representation of mixed-race people and miscegenation in art and poetry, this article sheds a new light on how meaning can be developed between races and cultures and stresses how colonialism and knowledge can be connected to contextualizing difference across time and space.


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