"This strange communion": surveillance and spectatorship in Ann Petry's The Street.
This critical work has been vital to producing an understanding of how Petry's work stands apart from that of the black male writers by whom she was so long overshadowed. Yet, now that Petry's distinctive gifts have been acknowledged and her originality of thought and expression has been appropriately credited, I want to suggest that there is good to be gained by once more placing Petry's first novel in relationship to the work of Wright and Ellison. (3) Indeed, I believe that even briefly turning to their fiction illuminates a central concern within The Street that has never been addressed: namely, the dynamics of spectatorship and surveillance that animate the racist social formation of Harlem. Placing Petry in relation to her male literary forebears in these terms will serve to underscore further the degree to which she was an innovator, breaking new ground for the black feminist writers who have come after her.
In Wright's Native Son, of course, vision and failures of vision serve as a central trope for the racial animosity that has spawned Bigger Thomas's homicidal consciousness. In particular, Mrs. Dalton, the blind mother of Bigger's first victim, serves as a figure for the blindness of both blacks and whites to the complexities of racism. Bigger spells out Mrs. Dalton's symbolic function explicitly, reflecting that "a lot of people were like Mrs. Dalton, blind..."(107). At a critical moment of epiphany, Bigger suddenly understands the ideological apparatus that has shackled him in similar terms: "He felt that [his family] wanted and yearned to see life in a certain way; they needed a certain picture of the world; there was one way of living they preferred above all others; and they were blind to what did not fit. They did not want to see what others were doing if that doing did not fit their own desires" (106). Again and again Wright returns to the idea that the blacks and whites in his text blunder forward, uns eeing, toward fates that have been predetermined by power dynamics that render their environment as invisibly lethal as a minefield. (4) Twelve years after the publication of Wright's novel, Ralph Ellison would produce a brilliant meditation on racism in Invisible Man, and once again the experience of not being seen served as a central metaphor for the effects of American racism.
While it is clear that a metaphorics of vision is central to the projects of both Wright and Ellison, virtually no notice has been given to the similar centrality of the ocular to Petry's own highly influential depiction of twentieth-century race relations. Wright and Ellison figured the power dynamics of race as matters of blindness and invisibility, respectively; Petry, on the other hand, depicts the dynamics of 1940s' Harlem in terms of visibility and, more particularly, in terms of looking and watching. At a number of key moments in The Street, which is set in Harlem in the 1940s, her characters attempt to articulate their experience of what E. Ann Kaplan calls the "imperial gaze." (5) In a crucial early scene Lutie, The Street's protagonist, for instance, struggles to explain to her eight-year-old son Bub "'why ... white people want colored people shining shoes'" (71). Lutie's reply suggests the centrality of the act of looking to the racism against which Petry's characters must incessantly struggle:
She turned toward him, completely at a loss as to what to say, for she had never been able to figure it out for herself. She looked down at her hands. They were brown and strong, the fingers were long and well-shaped. Perhaps because she was born with skin that color, she couldn't see anything wrong with it. She was used to it. Perhaps it was a shock just to look at skins that were dark if you were born with a skin that was white. Yet dark skins were smooth to the touch; they were warm from the blood that ran through the veins under the skin; they covered bodies that were just as well put together as the bodies that were covered with white skins. Even if it were a shock to look at people whose skins were dark, she had never been able to figure out why people with white skins hated people who had dark skins. It must be hate that made them wrap all Negroes up in a neat package labeled "colored"; a package that called for certain kinds of jobs and a special kind of treatment. But she really didn't know what it w as.
"I don't know, Bub," she said finally. "But it's for the same reason we can't live anywhere else but in places like this" -- she indicated the cracked ceiling, the worn top of the set tub, and the narrow window, with a wave of the paring knife in her hand. (71-72)
Petry establishes here the degree to which race must be regarded as a specular matter. At the heart of race is the "shock" of looking and the complexities of embodiment that the superficiality of racial thinking resists. Yet, as it is presented in this early scene, the connection between race and the gaze is also a mystery, a riddle. Lutie cannot formulate the precise relation between vision and race in response to Bub's question. Petry's larger project can be understood in part as an attempt to capture the intricate mesh of vision, race, and hate that the answer to a child's simple question could never encompass. (6)
As many critics have pointed out, however, race is only one part of the puzzle in The Street. Racial dynamics co-mingle with economic imperatives and sexual impulses in the text, creating a chaotic struggle in which the power vested in acts of looking and watching seems the only constant. Indeed, in this essay I want to explore Petry's distinctive variation on what bell hooks has termed "black looks," and what E. Ann Kaplan terms "looking relations." (7) I maintain that, in the acts of looking Petry foregrounds within the narrative, she produces a distinctive view of the relationship between a mode of watching driven by sexual desire and that propelled by a pervasive will to power--between, that is, spectatorship and surveillance--within the context of American constructions of racial identity. In portraying both the tension and complicity between these modes of watching, Petry presents a complex knot of oppression and resistance between whites and blacks, men and women in 1940s' Harlem.
Most urgently, as I will demonstrate below, the dynamics Petry conjures between these modes of watching emphasize the continuity between sexual and racial oppression. The Super begins as Lutie's sexual oppressor, yet by the conclusion of the text, as a consequence of his sexual obsession with her, he has learned to marshal the powers of a white government against his victim, becoming complicit with its racist ideology. Likewise, while Mrs. Hedges initially functions as the primary figure of surveillance in the text, we are ultimately made to understand that her complicity with the powerful white man Junto springs from a history of sexual marginalization. Meanwhile, Lu tie is chronically watched by Junto himself, who, despite his ostensible racial equanimity, comes to gaze upon her as a whore because of a racist ideology that defines all black women that way. The way her characters look at one another, that is, serves as Petry's chief means of dramatizing the degree to which sexist ideology inspires racist pra ctice, and vice versa. Petry's preoccupation with spectatorship and surveillance becomes her primary means of expressing not merely the burden a black woman faces as the object of both racism and sexism, but also the degree to which these forms of hatred can treacherously morph into one another. Finally, however, ocular acts are not presented exclusively as expressions of these deeply imbricated forms of hatred. Instead, near the conclusion of the text, she imagines a moment in which both racial and sexual hatred are shed through the act of looking itself and, in so doing, identifies potential in both modes of seeing to create solidarity and mutual understanding between the embattled blacks she portrays.
To better understand Petry's meditation on the "scopic regime" of 1940s' Harlem, I believe it is useful to turn to British art historian Griselda Pollock's remarkable essay "Feminism/Foucault--Surveillance/Sexuality." (8) I choose Pollock's work because, unlike a number of scholars who have addressed the interface between psychoanalytic theories of the gaze and Foucault's discussions of surveillance as a modern practice, Pollock insists on not only a profound interconnection between the two, but also important differences that prove crucial in Petry's work. (9) Specifically, Pollock interrogates "the conditions under which working[-]class women became the object of fascinated looking and of a disciplinary investigation in the nineteenth century" by investigating the ways female coal miners were regarded by the middle-class men who debated the decency of their choice to wear trousers in their mining work. In the course of her discussion, Pollock establishes a key distinction between "fascinated looking" and "d isciplinary investigation." Connecting the former with "the mechanism and processes associated with the unconscious," she claims that these unconscious drives, in their "unpredictable and destabilizing plays of fascination, curiosity, dread, desire, and horror," complicate--or, to use her term, "furrow"--"the will to know and the resultant relations of power" (9).
Having posited this distinction between "sexuality and surveillance," Pollock proceeds to demonstrate the ways that these modes of perception "mutually constructed each other in the interests of bourgeois men" (10). Within the historical context she studies, sexualized "fascinated looking" occurs simultaneously with the disciplinary gaze while being distinct from it: "Sexual difference is a constant problem. Its deviations and instabilities must be monitored, explored, and tracked down by those with the competence to examine, assess, investigate, that is to subject these other populations to a surveying and disciplining gaze" (32). In short, the fascinated desire to watch sexualized bodies both impels and is impelled by the "exploitation [of the body] as an object of knowledge and an element in relations of power" (33). Ultimately, she claims, "sexuality both collaborates with and disrupts the technologies and discourses of disciplinary surveillance" (38).
While Pollock's discussion focuses on inter-class looking among whites, her formulations serve as a useful lens through which to understand the complex relations between blacks--and between whites and blacks--in Petry's vision of Harlem. Specifically, I want to demonstrate that Petry's novel constructs a picture of social relations in Harlem in which two distinct, but interdependent, modes of looking are in operation. As in the case of Pollock's discussion, they may be understood as spectatorship and surveillance, and they likewise exist in a relation of both tension and reciprocity.
There are two characters who most completely embody the looking relations that concern Petry--"The Super," the superintendent of the building into which Lutie reluctantly moves at the beginning of the novel, and Mrs. Hedges, the whorehouse madame who throughout the narrative remains stationed at a prominent window watching the eponymous 116th Street. Near the outset of the text, Lutie distinguishes between their specular modes, attempting to gauge which is more menacing: "Somehow the man's eyes," she muses, "were worse than the eyes of the woman sitting in the window" (9). As I will discuss below, it is far from clear that the text depicts one of their modes of looking as more dangerous than the other. Yet I believe that it is appropriate to take the cue Petry provides here and examine how she constructs their respective modes of watching as distinct from one another.
In his ceaseless ogling of women, the Super seems an exemplary case of the sort of "fascinated looking" Pollock associates with sexual desire and that psychoanalytic theory broadly treats as the "male gaze." In scene after scene in the novel, the Super stands on the street, "looking at the women who went past, estimating them, wanting them" (87). His gaze reduces them to objectified parts; they disintegrate, in his eyes, into "well-shaped hips" (85) or "well-shaped legs that quivered where the flesh curved to form the calf" (288).
Yet it is the Super's dogged pursuit of Lutie that becomes truly emblematic of a voyeuristic gaze. In their opening encounter, Lutie immediately experiences the Super's regard as an affront: "For after his first quick furtive glance, his eyes had filled with a hunger so urgent that she was instantly afraid of him and afraid to show her fear" (10). The degree to which the Super's aggressive watching of Lutie in this scene is a controlling, patriarchal act is symbolically conveyed by his possession of a "long black flashlight" (11). Overtly represented as the phallus ("The flashlight was a shiny black -- smooth and gleaming faintly as the light lay along its length. Whereas the hand that held it was flesh--dull, scarred, worn flesh--no smoothness there" ), the flashlight symbolically equates the Super's ability to see with an ability to rape. (10) The power he commands is underscored in the scene, when, as he points the flashlight downward, it "turn[s] him into a figure of never-ending tallness" (14). In a scene that does justice to Petry's naturalist forebears, Petry telegraphs the degree to which sexual coercion and the act of looking will be conflated in the figure of the Super. (11)
Importantly, however, in this initial confrontation, Lutie is also armed with a flashlight, and although she is desperately afraid that she will drop the light ("she gripped the flashlight so tightly that the long beam of light from it started wavering and dancing over the walls so that the shadows moved ... shifting, moving back and forth" ), she manages to retain her own command of the light and, hence, the gaze. Indeed, at the conclusion of the scene, Lutie makes a final bid to resist the objectified position the Super's relentless staring imposes on her:"...she forced herself to look directly at the Super. A long hard look, malignant, steady, continued. Thinking, that'll fix you, Mister William Jones....this look, my fine feathered friend, should give you much food for thought" (25). Lutie's choice to retaliate against the Super's oppressive attention by beaming at him a look of her own foregrounds the level at which Petry is methodically interrogating the stakes of looking in her narrative.
Yet Lutie is only momentarily successful--if at all--in resisting the Super's oppressive gaze. Eventually, the Super's obsession compels him to enter Lutie's apartment when only her son is home. Once again, Petry stages the scene in terms that foreground the Super's compulsive need to look and see. "He would see how the place looked," she writes. "He would see her bedroom" (101). Once again the scene culminates with an extraordinary presentation of phallic imagery. After investigating all of the rooms, the Super fixes on a lipstick that Lutie has left on her table:
Jones was staring at a lipstick that was on the table-top. It had been lying close to the bowl of flowers so that he hadn't noticed it. The case was ivory-colored and there was a thin line of scarlet that went all the way around the bottom of it. He kept staring at the lipstick and almost involuntarily he reached out without moving his chair and picked it up. He pulled the top off and looked at the red stick inside. It was rounded from use and the smoothness of the red had a grainy look from being rubbed over her mouth.
He wanted to put it against his lips. That's the way her mouth would smell and it would feel like this stuff, only warm. (105)
Laura Mulvey has famously posited that, when gazing at women on the screen, male spectators escape their fear of lack of the phallus--their fear of castration--by either voyeurism or "the substitution of a fetish object" (438). (12) Here the Super clearly disavows castration by associating Lutie with the "red stick," and this projection becomes even more apparent when Bub, sensing the impropriety of the Super's apparent fixation on the object, snatches it from him "in a swift, instinctive, protective gesture" (105). The Super laments his loss:
There ought to be some way of getting that lipstick away from him. It would be good to hold it in his hands at night before he went to sleep so that the sweet smell would saturate his nostrils. He could carry it in his pocket where he could touch it during the day and take it out and fondle it down in the furnace room.
When he stood outside on the street, he wouldn't have to touch it, but he would know it was there lying deep in his pocket. He could almost feel it there now-warm against him. (106)
Possessing the lipstick would allow the Super to conquer his sense of lack: The proof of the phallus would be there, "lying deep in his pocket" (106).
This passage, like the flashlight episode, makes Petry's debt to the work of Freud unmistakable. (13) What is more striking, however, is the degree to which Petry's work anticipates that of Laura Mulvey and other feminist film theorists. The moment in which Bub intercepts the lipstick becomes one of a series in which Petry depicts Bub and the Super as characters who understand one another--who are, in fact, versions of the same man at different stages of experience. For my reading, Bub's function in these terms is crucial because Bub is also relentlessly constructed as a spectator-especially of film.
Bub's own--still latent--potential to become the sort of compulsive scopophiliac that we must understand the Super to be is framed in the broadest sense by the loneliness that he shares with the Super. We are told in our first extended glimpse of the Super's conduct as an ogler of women that his behavior is motivated by "the deadly loneliness that ate into him day and night. It was a loneliness born of years of living in basements and sleeping on mattresses in boiler rooms" (85). This loneliness, which figures as lack, likewise informs the actions of Bub. Lutie discovers early in the text that Bub, to endure the tedious hours when she is at work, has developed a game:
He walked over to the window and stood there looking out, his chin resting on his hands.
"What are you looking at?" she asked.
"The dogs down there," he said, pointing. "I call one of 'em Mother Dog and the other Father Dog. There are some children dogs over yonder."
She looked down in the direction in which he was pointing. Shattered fences divided the space in back of the houses into what had once been back yards. But as she looked, she thought it had become one yard, for the rusted tin cans, the piles of ashes, the pieces of metal from discarded automobiles, had disregarded the fences. The rubbish had crept through the broken places in the fences until all of it mingled in a disorderly pattern that looked from their top-floor window like a huge junkpile instead of a series of small back yards. She leaned farther out the window to see the dogs Bub had mentioned. They were sleeping in curled-up positions, and it was only by the occasional twitching of an ear or the infrequent moving of a tail that she could tell they were alive.
Bub was explaining the details of the game he played with them. It had something to do with which one moved first. (72-73)
Here Bub views the spectacle of Harlem itself, but his gaze in this scene eventually shifts to the face of his mother. In her construction of this scene, Petry deftly merges the spectatorial gaze that Bub is cultivating in his private game with the full-blown scopophilia of the man who functions increasingly as his mentor:
She was holding him so tightly that he turned away from his game with the dogs to look up in her face.
"You're pretty," he said, pressing his face close to hers. "The Super says you're pretty. And he's right." (74)
Bub's need not only to watch but to conceive of his environment as a spectacle, Petry implies, is an embryonic form of the compulsion that drives the Super.
More often, however, Bub's spectatorship involves going to the movies. In a number of scenes throughout the novel, Bub effusively narrates his response to films he has seen. Yet the significance of his spectatorship becomes clearer during the stalking scene I have quoted from above. At the opening of the scene, when the Super has first entered Lutie's apartment in her absence, Bub exclaims, "'I been to the movies.... You shoulda seen it"' (102). Throughout the remainder of the passage, the Super's compulsive examination of Lutie's apartment is accompanied by Bub's "endless telling of the movie" (104). By so closely connecting the gaze of the Super and Bub, Petry both presciently links Freud with masculine film spectatorship and points to the larger cultural forces that perpetuate what Mary Ann Doane terms the "masculinization of the spectatorial position" (188). (14)
The Super's fixation on Lutie as an object of the gaze culminates predictably in a scene in which he attempts to rape her. At this point, however, the Super's own status as the object of a policing gaze comes into dramatic relief. For throughout the Super's scopophilic gambit, he is consistently represented as suffering under a complex scopic regime that emanates from a network of power beyond his understanding. It is Mrs. Hedges who interrupts the Super's bid to assault Lutie, exclaiming, "'Ever you even look at that girl again, I'll have you locked up'" (238). In her compelling reading of The Street, Marjorie Pryse argues that Mrs. Hedges figures in a larger discourse of deism that Petry invokes throughout the text. What Pryse and others have seemingly discounted, however, is the degree to which Mrs. Hedges embodies a mode of controlling surveillance that exists in a dynamic tension with the fascinated looking the Super exemplifies.
Mrs. Hedges is introduced into the action of the text almost immediately, and from the first instant she appears she possesses a surreal and enigmatic scale that is the text's most consistent and marked gesture toward naturalism. As Lutie examines the sign advertising the apartment she will soon rent, she becomes aware of a woman sitting in a first-floor window. Unsettled to realize that "the woman had been sitting there all along staring at her, reading her thoughts, pushing her way into her mind" (5), Lutie immediately focuses on the sinister intensity of Mrs. Hedges's eyes: "They were as still and as malignant as the eyes of a snake. She could see them quite plainly--flat eyes that stared at her--wandering over her body, inspecting and appraising her from head to foot" (6). Lutie's immediate sense of violation--of her mind invaded, her body scrutinized--is clearly akin in this initial scene to the impact of the Super's obsessive gaze. Hedges, that is, might be understood to be looking at Lutie with the sam e sort of sexual interest that the Super addresses to her. And we do, in fact, soon learn that Hedges assesses Lutie's body here and elsewhere as a sexual object.
Yet Hedges's treatment of Lutie in these terms is mediated by her work as the ma dame of a "fairly well-kept whorehouse" (57), and while I will return later to the place of "fascinated looking" in the dynamics of Mrs. Hedges and Lutie, Hedges's role as madame functions as an entry point into her more important "looking" function in the text. For though Hedges's first imposing gaze upon Lutie can be read as a sexual act, Hedges's gaze here and later is generally characterized in terms that are more systematic than libidinal. While the Super, that is, in his exercise of what Doane calls the "masculine axis of vision," perceives Lutie primarily in terms of sexual difference, Hedges scans the content of the world around her with a wider band spectrum, "reading thoughts" -- apparently to control them-even as she takes in Lutie's body as a saleable object (Doane 188).
This more comprehensive and systematic mode of looking is reflected by Hedges's vast knowledge of the street before her. Early in the novel, Min, a woman who has shared the Super's bed as a hedge against loneliness and impoverishment, turns to Mrs. Hedges for counsel on how to neutralize the Super's obsession with the younger, more beautiful Lutie. Mrs. Hedges, she reasons, is the perfect source of advice because she "knew everything that went on in this house and most of the other houses on the street.... she knew this block between Eighth Avenue and Seventh Avenue better than most people know their own homes" (75-77). The Super perceives the scope of Mrs. Hedges's knowledge as even wider, feeling simply that she "know[s] ... everything" (290).
As Pryse has suggested, this omniscience can be understood as "godlike" (119). Min, for example, sees in Hedges's brooding vigil the possibility that, "if she stopped looking at [the street] for as much as a minute, the whole thing would collapse" (14). While Pryse locates in this and other passages an essential gesture toward deism, I believe the more important power that Hedges represents is a worldly one. Ultimately, Mrs. Hedges's acquisition of knowledge of the street through her tireless surveillance is revealed to be an exercise of power on behalf of Junto, the white racketeer who controls the local economy. It is Junto who controls the larger prostitution ring into which Hedges channels the women she recruits to her own bordello. It is to him that she relates many of her observations regarding the activities on the street. Mrs. Hedges reflects,
Yes. She and Mr. Junto had gone a long way. A long, long way. Sometimes she had surprised him and surprised herself at the things she had suggested to him. It came from looking at the street all day. There were so many people passing by, so many people with burdens too heavy for them, young ones who were lost, old ones who had given up all hope, middle-aged ones broken and lost like the young ones, and she learned a lot just from looking at them. (251)
Junto himself is repeatedly characterized as a chronic watcher; as Lutie enters his bar early in the text, she reflects that, "whenever she had been in here, he had been sitting at the same table, his hand cupped behind his ear as though he were listening to the sound of the cash register; sitting there alone watching everything--the customers, the bartenders, the waiters" (146). Pervasive and unobtrusive, Junto's own surveillance is a regulative one; he watches in order better to control the flow of capital through Harlem:
...Junto's squat-bodied figure was all gray--gray suit, gray hair, gray skin, so that he melted into the room. He could sit forever at that table and nobody would look at him twice. All those people guzzling drinks at the bar never glanced in his direction. The ones standing outside on the street and the ones walking back and forth were dumb, blind, deaf, to Junto's existence. Yet he had them coming and going. If they wanted to sleep, they paid him; if they wanted to drink, they paid him; if they wanted to dance, they paid him, and never even knew it. (275)
There is much to say about the figure of Junto that the space constraints of this article do not permit; yet for my purposes, the most striking element of Junto's character is his very diffuse-ness--he is, as Wurst puts it, "invisible, invincible, and omnipotent" (21). His very grayness in the black-and-white optics of a segregated America suggests his strange non-presence.
And in many senses, Junto is less of a subject than any other character in the text. As Pryse has suggested, the name Jun to seems a calculated invocation of the sort of cabal of powerful men that propelled Ben Franklin--a figure who haunts Petry's novel--on his road to success. (15) In this sense, Junto is not one man but a figure for a power that feeds on the color line but is not reducible to it. Importantly, Junto is the one major character in the text from whose eyes we never see events. We are denied the possibility of understanding him as a single, coherent consciousness. His increasingly abstract, disembodied quality seems an exemplary expression of what Reginald Twigg characterizes as the "feeling of alienation and weightlessness in the observer" that is produced by "the conceptual distance necessary for the operation of surveillance... because the fiction of a transcendent gaze is accomplished only by the rigorous denial of the body" (320). Indeed, by the conclusion of the text Lutie perceives Junto as a sinister, shapeless figure of evil--a profound stillness that isolates her and drives her toward her own destruction:
Before it had been formless, shapeless, a fluid moving mass--something disembodied that she couldn't see, could only sense. Now, as she stared at the couch, the thing took on form, substance. She could see what it was.
It was Junto. Gray hair, gray skin, short body, thick shoulders. He was sitting on the studio couch. The blue-glass coffee table was right in front of him. His feet were resting, squarely, firmly, on the congoleum rug.
If she wasn't careful she would scream. She would start screaming and never be able to stop, because there wasn't anyone there. Yet she could see him and when she didn't see him she could feel his presence. She looked away and then looked back again. Sometimes he was there when she looked and sometimes he wasn't.
She stared at the studio couch until she convinced herself there had never been anyone there. Her eyes were playing tricks on her because she was upset, nervous. (418)
Omnipresent and insidious, Junto finally seems to exemplify the Foucauldian axiom that modern surveillance is internalized by contemporary subjects, producing in them a node of self-regulation that serves power.
In the case of the subjects with whom Petry is concerned, moreover, this self-regulation has everything to do with race and segregation. The very existence of black ghettoes like Harlem was enforced by the fear among blacks that the white U.S. government was constantly watching each of them. Junto himself profits from the segregation enabled by this culture of surveillance by economically manipulating Harlem's captive consumer base. It should be noted, however, that Petry complicates Junto's relationship to this nexus of surveillance and racism by repeatedly emphasizing Junto's own indifference to race-an indifference exemplified by his alliance with and deep affection for Mrs. Hedges. Again and again throughout the text, Junto is depicted as never "stop[ping] to think whether folks are white or black" (251).
There are several possible ways of understanding Petry's depiction of Junto in these terms. On the most basic level, because Junto himself is represented as having had to struggle up from desperate poverty, it is possible to read his apparent fair-mindedness as an understanding of blacks arrived at through a similar class experience. Or perhaps Petry wished to document what she perceived to be a tendency among the white businessmen of Harlem to treat the blacks with at least superficial respect. On a more abstract level, it is also possible to see Petry's depiction of Junto as a means of speculating that a thoroughly systematic structure of power, driven primarily in this case by economic forces, might generate a culture that so dismantles human subjectivity itself that racial categories become inconsequential: In this reading, Junto dwells in a gray zone of economic imperative, where race is neutralized by an optics of dollars and cents. Yet no matter which interpretation one brings to Junto's ostensible col or-blindness, it is crucial to understand that his actions remain contextualized by the rigid hierarchy that the system of white power holds in place. Junto can afford to bypass the usual discourses of race, that is, as long as the racial hierarchy remains so naturalized that his power is unquestionable. And it is surveillance itself that maintains this complex hierarchy. (16) It is in these terms that I link surveillance with racism in Petry's text.
The Super and Mrs. Hedges (as the "eyes" of Junto), then, seem to represent a sexualized, fascinated looking and surveillance, respectively. Yet, as in the cultural history that Pollock traces in her essay, the two modes of looking collapse into one another in striking ways in The Street. As I will now show, while the Super's ceaseless gazing is framed in a language of objectifying sexual desire, his mode of looking ultimately shifts toward a paradigm of surveillance that is underwritten by racist white power. Likewise, while Mrs. Hedges and Junto clearly figure within a system of surveillance in the text, both are also implicated within the sexual dynamics that propel fascinated looking.
The Super's aggression toward Lutie does not in fact end with his foiled rape attempt; rather, his aim shifts from raping her to destroying her by destroying her son. The Super misinterprets Lutie's rejection of his sexual advance, finding in it evidence that she believes that "black men weren't good enough for her" (282). This misinterpretation is in a sense the culmination of a pattern of mistaken visions and hallucinations that constitute the other form of seeing that Petry associates with this figure. From the very outset of the text, the Super is represented as a man who "got notions in his head about things" (114). In his sexual drive to possess Lutie, for example, he indulges in extended fantasies in which he sees her welcoming--even initiating--a sexual liaison.
Yet the more striking instances of the Super's tendency to see falsely the world around him are the consequence of Min's efforts to quell his pursuit of Lutie. Desperate to ensure that the Super does not ask her to move out of his apartment, Mm secures the services of a root doctor. The doctor's "prescription" includes the placing of a large cross over the bed the two share. The prescription proves effective, for the Super is nearly overcome by panic each time he sees the cross. When he first spies it over the bed, "he started backing away from the sight of it, retreating toward the living room where he wouldn't be able to see it" (140). Throughout the remainder of the text, the Super is plagued by visions of it:
Finally it seemed to him that he met it at every turn. Wherever he looked, he saw a suggestion of its outline. His eyes added a horizontal line to the long cord that hung from the ceiling light and instantly the cross was dangling in front of him. He sought and found the shape of a cross in the window panes, in chairs, in the bars on the canary's cage. When he looked at Mm, he could see its outline as sharply as though it had been superimposed on her shapeless, flabby body. (231)
The Super's hallucinatory dread of the cross, we quickly learn, is produced by the association he makes between it and "the retribution which ... awaited men who lusted after women-men like himself":
Hence to him a cross was an alarming and unpleasant object, for it was a symbol of power. It was mixed up in his mind with the evil spirits and the powers of darkness it could invoke against those who outraged the laws of the church. (140)
What is striking about this passage is the degree to which the power of the Church has produced a mode of self-regulation in the Super that in turn transforms his vision. Noel Peacock has described the ways in which "hallucination... signifies a psychological internalization of the scopic regime's gaze" (118). The Super's hallucinatory response to the cross, then, must be understood in part as a by-product of the power that the modern church -- with its apparent capacity to monitor and record every indiscretion -- exerts upon his imagination. (17)
Yet I would argue that the Super's tormented visions also derive from the constant surveillance to which Mrs. Hedges subjects him. For while the Super projects his sense of sexual guilt and corruption onto the cross, it is actually Mrs. Hedges who more overtly polices the Super's sexual desire. Indeed, while, as I have established above, Mrs. Hedges's gaze captures every movement on the street, the Super accurately perceives that he is the particular object of a "constant, malicious surveillance" on her part (379). The Super's compulsion to watch women on the street is relentlessly subverted by Mrs. Hedges's watching presence:
In a sense Mrs. Hedges even spoiled his daily airings on the street, for he became convinced that she could read his mind. His eyes no sooner fastened on some likely looking girl than he became aware of Mrs. Hedges looming larger than life itself in the window -looking at him, saying nothing, just looking, and he was certain, reading his mind. (93)
This controlling of the Super's sexual desire becomes even more pronounced once he begins to stalk Lutie. At her first opportunity, Mrs. Hedges obliterates the pleasure he takes in gazing at the young woman:
Now standing here on the street watching Lutie walk toward the corner, he was aware that Mrs. Hedges was looking at him from her window. He was filled with a vast uneasiness, for he was certain that she could read his thoughts....
"Ain't no point in you lickin' your chops, dearie," she said. "There's others who are interested."
He frowned up at her. "What you talkin' about?"
"Mis' Johnson, of course. Who you think I'm talking about?... There ain't no point in you gettin' het up over her. She's marked down for somebody ehe." (89-90)
The ultimate instance of this regulation of the Super's sexual desire, of course, comes when Mrs. Hedges physically arrests the Super's attempt to rape Lutie.
The stakes of this intersection of surveillance and spectatorship can be understood in several ways. Both the quelling function of the cross and the aggressive conduct of Mrs. Hedges can be understood as instances in which black women use surveillance to control the masculine gaze. It is Min, after all, who installs the cross in their apartment. Her decision to do so is the consequence of her own observations of the Super:
She had seen him look at that young Mrs. Johnson the night she paid the deposit on the top-floor apartment. He had almost eaten her up looking at her, overwhelmed by her being so tall, by the way her body fairly brimmed over with being young and healthy. Three different times since then she had opened the hall door just a crack and seen him standing out there watching young Mrs. Johnson as she went up the stairs. (113-14)
Both Mi and Mrs. Hedges, then, watch the Super watch Lutie, and both exercise a regulatory control over his objectifying gaze. This use of surveillance to check male spectatorship and attendant sexual aggression could be understood to affirm Lutie's early assessment that "the man's eyes were worse than the eyes of the woman sitting in the window" (9). That is, the capacity of the surveying gaze of Min and Mrs. Hedges to protect Lutie from the immediate threat of rape that the Super poses could be understood to signal that black women are less damaged by surveillance than by spectatorship--that indeed surveillance empowers them. And since Mrs. Hedges and Mm are enabled in their acts of surveillance by an underlying matrix of white power, represented by Junto and the Church, respectively, we must reflect on whether Petry's text also implies that black women must ally themselves with whiteness to free themselves from victimization at the hands of black men--that they must either be surveying watchers coopted int o a white system of power or objects of a controlling black male gaze. In this sense, the surveillance of the Super figures in a too-familiar dynamic of white policing of black male sexuality.(18) Such an interpretation would suggest the inverse of Pollock's reasoning that "sexuality both collaborates with and disrupts... disciplinary surveillance," implying instead that surveillance disrupts sexuality. (38)
Yet, understanding Petry's novel to assert a connection between white surveillance and black female sexual empowerment would be too reductive, I think, given the text's climax, where Junto's systemic power and his male gaze fully fuse to set in motion Lutie's devastation. Certainly, it is Junto's black henchman, Boots Smith, who attempts to rape Lutie, a narrative turn which continues to place the emphasis on the threat of black male sexual desire. Yet Junto's systematic manipulation of Lutie's financial life, through his control of her nascent singing career, is what renders her vulnerable to that attack and its consequences, suggesting that ultimately Lutie, as a black woman, is at the mercy of both the dynamics of surveillance and spectatorship that the text depicts.
Finally, perhaps the most interesting outcome of these complex looking relations is the Super's own gradual movement from a spectatorial to surveying mode of looking. Once Mrs. Hedges bars his access to Lutie-not merely stopping the rape attempt, but clarifying that it is the powerful Junto who has claimed Lutie--the Super is cast fully into an awareness of the complex field of power in which he is suspended. Recalling his earlier attempts to battle Mrs. Hedges, he sees connections that were previously invisible:
His thoughts jumped back to Mrs. Hedges. So that was why he couldn't have her locked up that time he went to the police station. He remembered the police lieutenant, "What's her name?" and his eyes staring at the paper where it was already written down. Junto was the reason he couldn't have her arrested that time. Sometimes during the summer he had gone to the Bar and Grill for a glass of beer and he had seen him sitting in the back--a squat, short-bodied white man whose eyes never apparently left the crowd drinking at the bar. The thought of him set Jones to trembling. (279)
Certainly, even after his insight, the Super remains somewhat delusional, thinking with complete conviction that Lutie "was in love with the white man, Junto, and she couldn't bear to have a black man touch her" (281). Yet, the revelation of the power network seems to transform the Super's consciousness:
Well, he'd fix her. He'd fix her good. He searched his mind for a way to do it and was surprised to find that his thinking had grown cool, quiet, orderly....
He strained his eyes in the dark of the room as though by looking hard enough in front of him he would be able to see the means by which he would destroy her. He walked up and down thinking, thinking, thinking. (283)
As he strains into the dark, the Super begins to see in a new way. The next day he engineers a plan in which he will himself manipulate the field of power to destroy Lutie:
He stood transfixed by the wonder of what he was thinking. Because he had found what he wanted. This was the way to get the kid. Not even Junto with all his money could get the kid out of it. The more he thought about it, the more excited he became. If the kid should steal letters out of mail boxes, nobody, not even Junto, could get him loose from a rap like that. Because it was the Government. (291)
The scheme, in which he persuades Bub to steal mail for him, then turns him into postal investigators, becomes another remarkable moment in the text where fascinated looking and surveillance become implicated in one another. (19) It is through Bub's love of movies that the Super entices Bub to commit the crime, speaking to him in an idiom of "crooks" and "detectives" that the movies Bub views romanticize. And, indeed, once Bub begins the work, the boy frames it in these terms:
It was a pleasant tingling similar to the feeling he got at gangster movies. These men behind him, these people passing by, didn't know who he was or what he was doing. It could be they were the very men he was trying to catch; it could be the evidence to trap them was at that very moment reposing in the pockets of his jacket.
This was more wonderful, more thrilling, than anything he had ever done, any experience he had ever known. It wasn't make-believe like the movies. It was real, and he was playing the most important part. (342)
In a sort of infinite regress of fascinated looking and surveillance, Bub is lured into the Super's trap by watching films that in turn fetishize the surveillance activities of detectives. The pleasure for Bub here is the invisibility that attends surveillance--or as Seltzer puts it, the "seeing without being seen [that] becomes the measure of power" (41); even as the Super shifts from a spectator to a surveyor, so does his protege. (20)
Finally, the Super's inclinations to be a spectator resurface, as he revels in his opportunity to "stay and watch [Lutie] and laugh at her efforts to get Bub out of it" (384). Yet his activation of the incriminating authority of the government to effect Lutie's undoing suggests Petry's awareness of the complex relays between the masculine gaze and a mode of surveillance that marshals the more diffuse and systematic regulatory powers that emerge from and support the racist ideology that has created Harlem. (21) Bub's fate in the aftermath of the Super's trap, moreover, only intensifies the Super's apparent complicity with racist disciplinary power: Bub is consigned to reform school at the end of the text--an institution that represents the very essence of the disciplinary structures associated with modern surveillance.
Likewise, one can understand Mrs. Hedges not simply as a figure for surveillance in the text, but also as an emblem of how the powers and pleasures of looking are entwined. The narrative of how Mrs. Hedges has come to occupy a permanent, surveying post at her window comes late in the text and surfaces as a memory triggered by gazing upon Lutie. Mrs. Hedges recalls a life of brutal traumas produced by her physical appearance:
She began thinking about the period in her life when she had haunted employment agencies seeking work. When she walked in them, there was an uncontrollable revulsion in the faces of the white people who looked at her. They stared amazed at her enormous size, at the blackness of her skin. They glanced at each other, tried in vain to control their faces or didn't bother to try at all, simply let her see what a monstrosity they thought she was. (241)
Driven by misery from a small town in Georgia where, because of her giant size, "people. . . never really got used to the sight of her," Mrs. Hedges had hoped to find love and acceptance in New York. Specifically, she "hoped that she would find a man who would fall in love with her" (242). Yet, instead, Mrs. Hedges becomes ever more conscious that she will never be the object of a desiring male gaze.
This reality becomes indelible when, after making Junto's acquaintance and moving into a tenement he owns, she is horribly burned: "Scarred like this, hair burned off her head like this," she reflects, "she would never have any man's love" (246). Instead, she must endure an even more uncomfortable visibility in her disfigurement:
When the nurses and doctors bent over her to change the dressings, she watched them with hard, baleful eyes, waiting for the moment when they would expose all the ugliness of her burnt, bruised body. They couldn't conceal the expressions on their faces. Sometimes it was only a flicker of dismay, and then again it was sheer horror, plain for anyone to see--undisguised, uncontrollable. (246-47)
The affront of existing as a horrific spectacle drives Mrs. Hedges into seclusion: "She stayed in the hospital for weeks during which the determination never to expose herself to the prying, curious eyes of the world grew and crystallized" (247). At the end of her hospital stay, she moves to her new post at the window on the street, where she can watch while controlling her own visibility.
In Mrs. Hedges, then, we find another complex variation on the relay between surveillance and fascinated looking. While Lutie is victimized by the excess of the Super's objectifying gaze, Mrs. Hedges experiences the absence of such a gaze as a punitive denial of sexual difference. Though she perceives that Junto has strong feelings for her, she understands them as fundamentally platonic: "... even he would never want her as a woman. He had the kind of forthright admiration for her that he would have for another man--a man he regarded as his equal" (246). Her alliance with Junto, which is cemented by her disfigurement in the fire, moves her into an abstract realm of surveillance where, though she seeks an escape from watching eyes, she still experiences the absence of the gaze as a form of deprivation. That deprivation of the gaze, and her attendant perceived masculinization, propels her both to become an agent of Junto's scopic regime and to gaze upon women like Lutie as sexual objects. (22)
As I hope I have now established, Petry's novel is a subtle meditation on the relays and intersections between fascinated, sexualized looking and a regulatory gaze of surveillance that serves a racist system of power. As Petry orchestrates one encounter after another among Lutie, the Super, Mrs. Hedges, Bub, and Junto she foregrounds the gaze in its myriad forms as the central preoccupation of her text. It is crucial to note, however, that in a single, late passage Petry allows for the possibility of a form of looking that is free from hegemonic associations altogether. In this single scene, Petry's novel replaces the dynamics of what Kaplan calls "subject-object" looking, with an interaction in which two black characters gaze at one another without any assertion of dominance. In this passage Mrs. Hedges intervenes after a gang of young neighborhood boys surround Bub and begin to beat him. At the point where the boys begin to taunt Mrs. Hedges as well as Bub, she commands the boys to leave, and in the afterma th of the exchange, Bub and Mrs. Hedges regard each other from their relative positions;
Mrs. Hedges remained at the window, her arms folded on the sill. She and Dub looked at each other for a long moment. They appeared to be holding a silent conversation -- acknowledging their pain, commiserating with each other, and then agreeing to dismiss the incident from their minds, to forget it as though it had never occurred. The boy looked very small in contrast to the woman's enormous bulk. His nose was dripping blood -- scarlet against the dark brown of his skin. He was shivering as though he was cold.
Finally their eyes shifted as though some common impulse prompted them to call a halt to this strange communion. (348)
What is truly distinctive about this moment is that it proves to be the single instance in the text when two characters regard one another as equals, using their capacity to see as a means of solidarity and understanding. This "strange communion" is the coalescence of Bub's male gaze and Hedges's surveying one, but rather than initiating a power struggle, the meeting of eyes becomes a means of mutually resisting the forms of cruelty and oppression that the attacking boys represent.
Certainly, the commiseration between Bub and Hedges might seem more politically significant if they united their gazes against a white oppressor, rather than a cohort of young, black boys. This instance of sharing pain, however, remains a signal episode of what Kaplan calls "a looking relation," which she characterizes as "mutual gazing, mutual subject-to-subject recognition" (79). As such, the episode contrasts sharply with the many instances in which The Street portrays the visual dynamics of Harlem as unilateral and hegemonic.
Finally, then, Petry represents acts of looking in Harlem both as a primary vehicle of racial and gender oppression and as a potential means of solidarity and resistance. In offering a complex map of the intersections between the operations cf surveillance and spectatorship, Petry exposes the insidious degree to which the sexist objectification of women can mutate into complicity with racist systems of power, and vice versa. By illuminating these relays between the two forms of oppression Petry reminds the reader that, to battle either racism or sexism, one must battle both. And, interestingly, the very acts of looking which so often serve as the merciless conduits of these interlocked forms of hatred are ultimately pinpointed as one means of conquering them. In portraying a moment of communion between a mature black woman and a young black boy in which these once destructive forms of looking build a bridge of understanding, Petry suggests that the racial optics of hate may still be revised with time and acro ss generations.
(1.) See, for instance, Bone's unfavorable comparison of Petty to Himes and Wright, and Elsinger's identification of Petry along with Wright and Ellison as the only three notable black writers of the period between 1939 and 1953.
(2.) See, for instance, McKay's reading of Lutie at the nexus of "race, class, and gender" (130); Park and Wald's analysis of Petry's negotiation of notions of the public and private; Wurst's and Pryse's respective readings of the centrality of the mythology of Benjamin Franklin to Petry's narrative; and Drake's contextualization of Lutie within the social practices of the blues and conjuring.
(3.) My intention in this essay is to suggest only in the broadest terms how the work of writers such as Wright and Ellison can help to illuminate central concerns in Petry's fiction. Much more detailed comparative scholarship remains to be done.
(4.) Two of the most compelling discussions of Wright's depiction of ocular matters in Native Son are those by Elmer and Fishburn.
(5.) According to Kaplan, "The imperial gaze reflects the assumption that the white western subject is central, much as the male gaze assumes the centrality of the male subject" (78). While Kaplan is specifically concerned with (post)colonial relations in her text, I use her term here because it represents an important effort to assess the role of looking in the construction of racial identity. Kaplan states, "The gaze of the colonialist... refuses to acknowledge its own power and privilege: it unconsciously represses knowledge of power hierarchies and its need to dominate, to control. Like the male gaze, it's an objectifying gaze, one that refuses mutual gazing, mutual subject-to-subject recognition' (79).
(6.) The only critic to give extended attention to the focus on visuality in Petry's text is Andrews, whose discussions of acts of looking are framed in terms of his very general argument regarding "the powerful physical way in which the city assaults the characters' senses through concrete detail" (199). Petry's fascination with vision and looking continued to be evident in her two other novels, A Country Place and The Narrows. In the former, this preoccupation is most apparent in the character of the "Weasel," a voyeuristic cab driver who manipulates the residents of the small town in which the narrative is set by wielding the knowledge he acquires through his relentless surveillance. The Narrows, however, is a more comprehensive meditation on the gaze, and one that merits further critical attention. While McDowell has briefly discussed the ways issues of visuality, knowledge, and perspective are explored in Petry's last novel, much more remains to be said about her discussions there of photography, the mal e gaze, and the relationship between race and acts of looking. I concur with McDowell's assessment that the primary focus of such an analysis should be the photographer Jubine. Characterized by "eyes.. . [that] held you, embarrassed you, bold bulging eyes that made no pretense of not looking, that couldn't get enough of looking," Jubine becomes a new and complicated means by which Petty continues to explore issues of surveillance, male gazing, and the complicity of acts of representation in the expansion of modern forms of power.
(7.) Both hooks and Kaplan have produced important scholarship on the ways whites and blacks look at one another; while this reading is, in part, an extension of these discussions, it also considers how Petty comments on how blacks look at one another and how this is shaped by the interracial looking of which they are the object.
(8.) While the term scopic regime is most closely associated with the work of Martin Jay, here I am interested in the particular definition Noel Peacock attaches to it in relation to Conrad's Under Western Eyes. In that text, according to Peacock, the scopic regime is a "political mode of perception that is monstrous both in its functioning and in its relationship to the perceiving eye of the narrator" (115). This is an apt definition of the scopic regime of Harlem in Petry's text, as well.
(9.) In his focus on the "nexus of policing and entertainment" Seltzer locates in acts of looking in realist texts, for example, he tends to discount any distinction between the drives that propel surveillance and spectatorship (33). Likewise, Twigg elides the differences between these forms of looking when he writes that"... surveillance imbues the act of looking at Others with sexual power. Objectification is simultaneously a sexual and political act whereby the Other is rendered naked and vulnerable in the performance of the gaze. As passive objects offered up to the transcendent gaze, a gaze that invades the most private and vulnerable moments. Others are put on display and visually consumed" (321). And in her suggestion that "the 'male' gaze and the 'imperial' gaze cannot be separated within Western patriarchal cultures," Kaplan also tends to conflate acts of spectatorship and surveillance (xi). While I agree with these critics' suggestion that on some levels the two modes of watching can be understood a s inextricably implicated in one another, I believe that distinguishing the origins of these modes of looking can yield important insights about the relationship between desire and power. Pollock effectively articulates these distinct origins when she writes that "the will to know and the resultant relations of power are furrowed by the more unpredictable and destabilizing plays of fascination, curiosity, dread, desire, and horror" (6).
(10.) This use of the flashlight as a symbol of the phallus is also reminiscent of the scene in Native Son in which Bigger refers to his act of masturbation as "polishing [his] nightstick" (30). According to Elmer, this scene suggests that "Wright evidently wishes us to follow the lateral associations and overdeterminations of the terms 'nightstick' and 'beating' until we recognize that the need for stimulation to which Bigger has just attested is here enacted as a kind of self-flagellation" (778). Elmer also reads Bigger's choice to masturbate within a movie theater as part of a larger, complex meditation on "spectacle and event" in Wright's novel. Petry's choice meanwhile to render the phallus in terms of an implement of light reinforces the degree to which she is preoccupied with issues of vision in her own novel.
(11.) While my interests in this scene focus on the dynamics of the gaze in this battle of flashlights, this is one of a number of important passages in which Petry generates a complex interplay between light and darkness. Light. of course, as Peacock points out, is the "precondition" of vision (114). Yet I believe that Petry's applications of light and darkness throughout the text could also be profitably read in relation to the sort of symbolic register of whiteness and blackness that Morrison identifies as a routine means by which American writers have commented on the sweeping ideological impact of racial thinking.
(12.) According to Modleski, the use of any fetish is an attempt "to restore the wholeness and unity threatened by the sight of difference" (212).
(13.) Mobley points out that Petry was "widely" read in "psychology, psychiatry, and sociology" (350).
(14.) See Doane 188. This is not to say, of course, that issues of the gaze had not been discussed much earlier than the 1940s when Petry was writing. As Koch points out, by 1913 social commentators were attempting to grasp the nature of the gaze that new film technologies were both bringing into being and, in turn, being shaped by (140). The connection between male desire and film-watching that Petry implies in these scenes also marks one of her important debts to Wright's Native Son, where film-going precipitates more direct acts of sexual violence.
(15.) While Pryse provides more information about Franklin's relationship to his Junto, Wurst provides the most comprehensive discussion of the ways Petry incorpc rates the mythology surrounding Ben Franklin into her novel.
(16.) For an interesting discussion of Petry's complex and ambiguous depiction of Junto, see Wurst 18-19.
(17.) The references to the cross, of course, are also evocative of the passages in Native Son where, after seeing a burning cross elevated by the Ku Klux Klan, Bigger continues to see its image before his eyes.
(18.) As bell hooks observes, "The black male gaze was always subject to control and/or punishment by the powerful white Other" (118).
(19.) Interestingly, it was an account in the newspaper of a young boy arrested after a superintendent had taught him to steal mail that was the initial seed for Petry's entire novel (Condon 5). At the very origins of the novel, then, was a fascination with power and surveillance.
(20.) For a brief discussion of the ways surveillance in particular figures in Bub's entrapment, see Barrett 228.
(21.) The Super's actual function as the building "superintendent," of course, should not be overlooked when considering his (belated?) shift toward this more regulatory, less libidinal persona.
(22.) For other accounts of the role sexuality and fascinated looking plays in Petry's depiction of Mrs. Hedges, see Greene 192; Thomson 611; and Clark 498.
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hooks, bell. Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston: South End P, 1992.
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Peacock, Noel. "The Russian Eye: Surveillance and the Scopic Regime in Under Western Eyes." Conrad and Poland. Ed. Alex S. Kurczaba. Vol. 5 of Conrad: Eastern and Western Perspectives. Lublin: Maria Curie-Sklodowska UP, 1996. 113-33.
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Pollock, Griselda. "Feminism/Foucault--Surveillance/Sexuality." Visual Culture: Images and Interpretations. Ed. Norman Bryson, Michael Ann Holly, and Keith Moxey. Middleton: Wesleyan UP, 1994. 2-41.
Pryse, Marjorie. "'Pattern Against the Sky': Deism and Motherhood in Ann Petry's The Street." Conjuring: Black Women, Fiction and Literary Tradition. Ed. Pryse and Hortense J. Spillers. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1985. 116-31.
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Thompson, Rosemarie Garland. "Ann Petry's Mrs. Hedges and the Evil, One-eyed Girl: A Feminist Exploration of the Physically Disabled Female Subject" Women's Studies 24 (1995): 599-614.
Twigg, Reginald. "The Performative Dimension of Surveillance: Jacob Riis' How the Other Half Lives." Text and Performance Quarterly 12 (1992): 305-28.
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Wurst, Gayle. "Ben Franklin in Harlem: The Drama of Deferral in Ann Petry's The Street." Deferring a Dream: Literary Sub-Versions of the American Columbiad. Ed. Gert Buelens and Ernst Rudin. Basel: Birkhauser, 1994. 1-23.
Heather Hicks is Associate Professor of English at Villanova University. She has published articles on T. Coraghessan Boyle, William Gibson, Marge Piercy, and Joanna Russ, exploring how these writers redefine categories of race and gender in a contemporary context. She is currently writing a book on how American authors have depicted transformations in the meaning of public, paid work since World War II.
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|Publication:||African American Review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2003|
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