The Emperor Jones, Eugene O'Neill, identity, hybridity, otherness, whiteness, blackness, primitivisim


This paper aims to explore how racialized identities are typified as a modernist construct in Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones (1920). To this end, the notion of whiteness is identified as a mediated construct and contextualized in the proliferation of American minstrel shows. This popular entertainment projected to white audiences the racial means of differentiation from black caricatures and clichés at the time of segregation. The echoes of minstrel shows and modernists’ instrumentalization of 1920s primitivism serve to initially address the characterization of blackness in Brutus Jones’ identity. Assessed through this in-between construction of symbolic borderlands in which the protagonist is both colonizer and colonized, his blackness becomes a metaphorical mask of otherness while his whiteness shapes the colonial performance of material whiteness. Although he envisions the white ideal in his systematic practices in the Caribbean island, his fragmented identity and his hybridity subject him to a primeval racialized past, to primitivism and atavism.


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Author Biography

María Isabel Romero-Pérez, University of Granada

María Isabel Romero-Pérez holds a Master's degree in English Literature and Linguistics. She is currently a PhD Student of the Doctoral Programme Lenguas, Textos y Contextos (Languages, Texts and Contexts) in the Department of English and German Philology at the University of Granada.


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How to Cite

Romero-Pérez, M. I. “IDENTITY AS A CONSTRUCT: READING BLACKNESS IN EUGENE O’NEILL’S THE EMPEROR JONES”. Revista De Estudios Norteamericanos, vol. 25, Oct. 2021, doi:10.12795/REN.2021.i25.10.



Received 2020-07-16
Accepted 2021-09-24
Published 2021-10-08