Main Article Content
Philip Roth’s novel The Human Stain recounts an instance of racial passing: its protagonist, Coleman Silk, is African-American but light-skinned enough to pass as white. Coleman’s decision to pass and his subsequent violent death, I argue, confront us with complex ethical questions regarding unjust social roles, loyalty, and moral luck. I also argue, building on Hegel’s definition of tragedy, that The Human Stain is a particularly modern tragedy. The novel highlights conflicting role obligations, inadequate conceptions of freedom, and the tensions of cultural paradigm shifts—all characteristics typical of modern tragedy. I claim that parsing The Human Stain as a tragedy deepens our understanding of the novel as well as drawing our attention to its philosophical significance.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).