THINK TANK; Uncovering an Interracial Literature of Love . . . and Racism

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2015-11-18 22:11Z by Steven

THINK TANK; Uncovering an Interracial Literature of Love . . . and Racism

The New York Times

Emily Eakin

The word miscegenation entered America’s bitter racial politics and the national lexicon by way of an ambitious hoax. On Christmas Day in 1863, an anonymous 72-page pamphlet appeared on newsstands around New York City. Titled “Miscegenation: The Theory of the Blending of the Races, Applied to the American White Man and Negro,” it had all the earmarks of a tract by radical abolitionists.

Arguing that “science has demonstrated that the intermarriage of diverse races is indispensable to a progressive humanity,” it triumphantly unveiled a new vocabulary to accompany America’s noble, interracial future. In addition to “miscegenation” (derived, the text explained, from the Latin words miscere, to mix, and genus, race), the neologisms included: “miscegen” (“an offspring of persons of different races”), “miscegenate” (“to mingle persons of different races”) and “melaleukation” (from the Greek words melas and leukos, for black and white, and used to mean the mingling of those races).

“We must become a yellow-skinned, black-haired people — in fine, we must become miscegens if we would attain the fullest results of civilization,” the pamphlet exhorted, pointing to the number of European nations composed “of many diverse bloods” that could claim extraordinary cultural achievements. Just consider the French, it suggested by way of example: “The two most brilliant writers it can boast of are the melaleukon, Dumas, and his son, a quadroon.”

Applauded by prominent abolitionists and denounced in Congress, the pamphlet made miscegenation a household word. But the work turned out to be a fraud, an ultimately unsuccessful scheme by two journalists at a pro-Democratic newspaper to turn voters against Abraham Lincoln, the Republican president who freed the slaves and was up for re-election in 1864.

”You have to imagine that an 1863 audience would take this as the worst possible thing,” said Werner Sollors, a professor of English and African-American studies at Harvard. ”If you read it from a 21st-century point of view, a lot of it seems common sensical.”

The pamphlet is just one of many startling textual artifacts Mr. Sollors included in a new book he edited, ”An Anthology of Interracial Literature: Black-White Contacts in the Old World and the New.” Published in February by New York University Press, the $28 anthology is the first in English devoted to work that Mr. Sollors says has typically been overlooked, an orphan literature belonging to no clear ethnic or national tradition…

Read the entire review here.

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Pudd’nhead Wilson

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, United States on 2014-09-26 15:50Z by Steven

Pudd’nhead Wilson

Harvard University Press
February 2015 (Originally Published in 1894)
190 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
7 line illustrations
Paperback ISBN: 9780674059832

Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Introduction by:

Werner Sollors, Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English Literature and Professor of African and African American Studies
Harvard University

When a murder takes place in Dawson’s Landing, Missouri, the lives of twin Italian noblemen, the courageous slave Roxy, her 1/32nd “black” son who has been raised “white,” and a failing lawyer with an intense interest in the science of fingerprinting become tangled. The unsolved riddle at the heart of Pudd’nhead Wilson is less the identity of the murderer than it is the question of whether nature or nurture makes the man. In his introduction, Werner Sollors illuminates the complex web of uncertainty that is the switched-and-doubled-identity world of Mark Twain’s novel. This edition follows the text of the 1899 De Luxe edition and for the first time reprints all the E. W. Kemble illustrations that accompanied it.

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Mixing it Up

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Interviews, Law, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-03-26 02:31Z by Steven

Mixing it Up


Suzy Hansen

Alabama just legalized black-white marriage. An expert talks about why it took so long and the American obsession with racial purity.

In November 2000, after a statewide vote in a special election, Alabama became the last state to overturn a law that was an ugly reminder of America’s past, a ban on interracial marriage. The one-time home of George Wallace and Martin Luther King Jr. had held onto the provision for 33 years after the Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. Yet as the election revealed — 40 percent of Alabamans voted to keep the ban — many people still see the necessity for a law that prohibits blacks and whites from mixing blood.

Werner Sollors, a professor of Afro-American studies at Harvard, was born in Germany and came to the United States in 1978. He has been studying and writing about the history of American interracial relationships since 1986. Sollors is the editor of the recently published “Interracialism: Black-White Intermarriage in American History, Literature, and Law,” a fascinating survey of legal decisions, literary criticism and essays by writers and scholars including Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois and Randall Kennedy. Salon spoke with Sollors by phone from his office in Cambridge about the mixed-race origins — and multiracial future — of the nation.

What took Alabama so long to overturn its anti-miscegenation law?

In the years after the Civil War, most of the Southern states made miscegenation bans part of their constitutions. And part of the constitutional provision was that no legislation should ever change them. These were not just ordinary laws that you could modify with a simple majority; they called for very complicated processes and very large majorities to be overturned.

In 1967, the Supreme Court invalidated these anti-miscegenation provisions with the Loving vs. Virginia case, and the Southern states began to adjust. But not right away. In the first 10 or 15 years, there wasn’t a lot of activism or popular support for having the laws changed — no politician wanted to be caught trying to remove those statutes. I think Mississippi did it in 1987 or 1988 — 20 years after the Loving vs. Virginia case…

…What’s been going on with racial categories in the census is also interesting.

The census had two rules. One is the 1997 rule that permitted everyone to mark more than one box in the 2000 census. Then came the 2000 evaluation procedure, which allowed the census to classify anyone who marked more than one box as part of the “people of color” category — if there was a white and color mix indicated.

Essentially, it’s one thing to say that a person can fall into multiple racial categories, but what happens to all the people in the old categories? It can have some disastrous consequences now because in some states, apparently many white Americans found it fashionable to indicate that they were Native American. In some counties where Native Americans were a minority they may now end up as a majority. There are lots of headaches with counting and civil rights and voting rights and districting that are going to come in the next two years as a result of this census decision…

Read the entire interview here.

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Charles W. Chesnutt: Stories, Novels, and Essays

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, United States on 2012-02-19 00:22Z by Steven

Charles W. Chesnutt: Stories, Novels, and Essays

The Library of America
939 pages
8.1 x 5.3 x 1.3 inches
Hardcover ISBN-10: 1931082065; ISBN-13: 978-1931082068

Edited by

Werner Sollors, Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English and African-American Studies
Harvard University

Before Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, before James Weldon Johnson and James Baldwin, Charles W. Chesnutt broke new ground in American literature with his innovative exploration of racial identity and his use of African American speech and folklore. Rejecting his era’s genteel hypocrisy about miscegenation, lynching, and “passing,” Chesnutt laid bare the deep contradictions at the heart of American attitudes toward race and history, and in the process created the modern African American novel. The Library of America presents the best of Chesnutt’s fiction and nonfiction in the largest and most comprehensive edition ever published, featuring a newly researched chronology of the writer’s life.

The Conjure Woman (1899) introduced Chesnutt to the public as a writer of “conjure” tales that explore black folklore and supernaturalism. In such stories as “The Goophered Grapevine” and “The Conjurer’s Revenge,” the storyteller Uncle Julius reveals a world of fantastic powers and occult influence. That same year, Chesnutt published The Wife of His Youth, and Other Stories of the Color Line, a collection set in his native North Carolina that examines the legacies of slavery and Reconstruction at the turn of the century.

His first novel, The House Behind the Cedars (1900) dramatizes the emotional turmoil and inevitable conflicts brought on racial passing. Through the agonizing fate of Rena Walden, a beautiful woman in search of her own identity, Chesnutt exposes the destructive consequences of the legal and social fictions surrounding race in the post-bellum South.

The Marrow of Tradition (1901), Chesnutt’s masterpiece, is a powerful and bitter novel about the harsh reassertion of white dominance in a Southern town. Based on the 1898 massacre in Wilmington, North Carolina, the book reveals the political underpinnings of the emerging segregationist status quo through the story of two secretly related families, one black, one white. Neglected in its own time, The Marrow of Tradition has been recognized increasingly as a unique and multilayered depiction of the hidden dynamics of a society giving way to violence.

Nine uncollected short stories, including all the Uncle Julius tales omitted from The Conjure Woman, round out the volume’s fiction. A selection of essays, mixing forceful legal argument and political passion, highlight Chesnutt’s prescient views on the paradoxes and future prospects of race relations in American and the definition of race itself. Also included is the revealing autobiographical essay written late in his life, “Post-Bellum—Pre-Harlem.”

Table of Contents

  • The Conjure Woman [1899]
    • The Goophered Grapevine
    • Po’ Sandy
    • Mars Jeems’s Nightmare
    • The Conjurer’s Revenge
    • Sis’ Becky’s Pickaninny
    • The Gray Wolf’s Ha’nt
    • Hot-Foot Hannibal
  • The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories of the Color Line [1899]
    • The Wife of His Youth
    • Her Virginia Mammy
    • The Sheriff’s Children
    • A Matter of Principle
    • Cicely’s Dream
    • The Passing of Grandison
    • Uncle Wellington’s Wives
    • The Bouquet
    • The Web of Circumstance
  • The House Behind the Cedars [1900]
  • The Marrow of Tradition [1901]
  • Uncollected Stories
    • Dave’s Neckliss [1889]
    • A Deep Sleeper [1893]
    • Lonesome Ben [1900]
    • The Dumb Witness [ca. 1900]
    • The March of Progress [1901]
    • Baxter’s Procrustes [1904]
    • The Doll [1912]
    • White Weeds
    • The Kiss
  • Selected Essays
    • What is a White Man [1889]
    • The Future American [1900]
    • Superstitions and Folk-Lore of the Modern South [1901]
    • Charles W. Chesnutt’s Own View of His New Story, The Marrow of Tradition [1901]
    • The Disfranchisement of the Negro [1903]
    • The Courts and the Negro [1908]
    • Post-Bellum-Pre-Harlem [1931]
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A Critique of Pure Pluralism

Posted in Books, Chapter, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2012-01-16 03:16Z by Steven

A Critique of Pure Pluralism

Chapter in:
Reconstructing American Literary History
Harvard University Press
386 pages
ISBN-10: 1583484167; ISBN-13: 978-1583484166

Edited by:

Sacvan Bercovitch, Powell M. Cabot Research Professor of American Literature
Harvard University

pages 250-279

Chapter Author:

Werner Sollors, Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English Literature and Afro American Studies; Director of the History of American Civilization Program
Harvard University

Men may change their clothes, their politics, their wives, their religions, their philosophies, to a greater or lesser extent: they cannot change their grandfathers.
Horace Kallen

Reviewing the new (fifth) edition of James D. Hart’s Oxford Companion to American Literature, Joe Weixlmann praises the editor’s effort to expand the coverage of black authors, yet finds the volume’s treatment of black, ethnic, female, and modern writers ultimately insufficient and wanting. Weixlmann concludes that “the old, venerable Oxford Companion to American Literature, despite its partial facelift, remains in its current incarnation, a product of such staid American and academic values as racism, sexism, traditionalism, and elitism.”

This identification of deplorable omissions with a scholar’s bias is quite common in the current debates. Frequently an opposition is constructed between closeminded narrowness (sexism, racism, elitism) and the alternative of inclusive openness associated with what is often called “cultural pluralism. In his essay “Minority Literature in the Service of Cultural Pluralism,” included in one of the several Modern Language Association readers on American ethnic literature which were published in the last decade, David Dorsey writes:

Only from the diverse literatures can youth feel the meaning of the past … At present diversity is everywhere tolerated in theory, punished in practice, and nowhere justified or justifiable beyond an appeal to solipsism. But America has no choice. Only a genuinely pluralistic society can henceforth prosper here. It must be nurtured in our diverse hearts. And for that we need literature, which is the language of the heart.

In this scholarly drama of diversity and pluralism versus traditionalism and prejudice there is emotion and prophecy just as there are heroes and villains. The editors of another MLA reader, Ethnic Perspectives in American Literature (1983), write:

Ethnic pluralism, once the anathema to those who espoused the melting-pot theory, has become a positive, stimulating force for many in our country . . . Transforming the national metaphors from “melting pot” to “mosaic” is not easy. Indeed, the pieces of that national mosaic have been cemented in place with much congealed blood and sweat. We must all continue to work at making the beauty of our multiethnicity shine through the dullness of racism that threatens to cloud it…

…The dominant assumption among serious scholars who study ethnic literary history seems to be that history can best be written by separating the groups that produced such literature in the United States. The published results of this “mosaic” procedure are the readers and compendiums made up of diverse essays on groups of ethnic writers who may have little in common except so-called ethnic roots while, at the same time, obvious and important literary and cultural connections are obfuscated. As James Dormon wrote in a recent review of such a mosaic collection of essays on ethnic theater, “there is little to tie the various essays together other than the shared theme ‘ethnic American theater history,’ as this topic might be construed by each individual author.” The contours of an ethnic literary history are beginning to emerge which views writers primarily as “members” of various ethnic and gender groups. James T. Farrell may thus be discussed as a pure Irish-American writer, without any hint that he got interested in writing ethnic literature after reading and meeting Abraham Cahan, and that his first stories were set in Polish-America—not to mention his interest in Russian and French writing or in Chicago sociology. Or, conversely, Carl Sandburg may be dismissed from the Scandinavian-American part of the mosaic for being “too American.”

Taken exclusively, what is often called “the ethnic perspective”—which often means, in literary history, the emphasis of a writer’s descent—all but annihilates polyethnic art movements, moments of individual and cultural interaction, and the pervasiveness of cultural syncretism in America. The widespread acceptance of the group-by-group approach has not only led to unhistorical accounts held together by static notions of rather abstractly and homogeneously conceived ethnic groups, but has also weakened the comparative and critical skills of increasingly timid interpreters who sometimes choose to speak with the authority of ethnic insiders rather than that of readers of texts. (Practicing cultural pluralism may easily manifest itself in ethnic relativism.)

Yet, if anything, ethnic literary history ought to increase our understanding of the cultural interplays and contacts among writers of different backgrounds, the ethnic innovations and cultural mergers that took place in America; and the results of the critical readings should not only leave room for, but actively invite, criticism and scrutiny by other readers (“outsiders” or “insiders”) of the texts discussed. This can only be accomplished if the categorization of writers—and literary critics—as “members” of ethnic groups is understood to be a very partial, temporal, and insufficient characterization at best. Could not an openly transethnic procedure that aims for conceptual generalizations and historicity be more daring, profitable, and conceptually illuminating than that of simply adding to the sections on “major writers” chapters on “the popular muse,” “Negro voices,” “the immigrant speaks,” “generations of women,” “mingling of tongues,” and the rest of it?

Is it possible now to rewrite Quinn’s chapter and include Douglass or do we need separate chapters for each ethnic group, to be written by “insiders”? Can we construct a chapter on intellectual life in the early twentieth century in which ideas entertained by Anglo-American, Irish-American, Jewish-American, and Afro-American figures can be discussed together, or do we have to separate men and women, immigrants and American-born authors? Is it possible to connect Alain Locke, who ended his introduction to The New Negro (1925) with the hope for “a spiritual Coming of Age” with his college classmate Van Wyck Brooks, or are two heterogeneous ethnic experiences at work in them? These questions apply not only to the synchronic analysis of a period, but also to the construction of diachronic “descent lines.” Do we have to believe in a filiation from Mark Twain to Ernest Hemingway, but not to Ralph Ellison (who is supposedly descended from James Weldon Johnson and Richard Wright)? Can Gertrude Stein be discussed with Richard Wright or only with white women expatriate German-Jewish writers? Is there a link from the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin to those of Frederick Douglass and Mary Antin, or must we see Douglass exclusively as a version of Olaudah Equiano and a precursor to Malcolm X? Is Zora Neale Hurston only Alice Walker’s foremother? In general, is the question of influence, of who came first, more interesting than the investigation of the constellation in which ideas, styles, themes, and  forms of travel.

In order to pursue such questions I have set myself a double task. I shall review significant criticisms of the shortcomings of the concept of cultural pluralism in the hope that the arguments made by intellectual historians of the past decade may affect thinking about American literature today; and I shall attempt to suggest the complexities of polyethnic interaction among some of the intellectuals who were involved in developing the term “cultural pluralism.” It is ironical that the story of the origins of cultural pluralism I shall tell could not have been told in the “pluralistic mosaic” format of group-by-group accounts of American cultural life: one protagonist would illustrate what the current fashion calls “the Jewish experience,” another “the Black experience,” a third “the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant experience.” But the fact is that it was not any monoethnic “experience” that led to the emergence of the concept of cultural pluralism. It was the protagonists’ troubled interaction with each other. Pluralism had a fairly monistic origin in a university philosophy department in the first decade of this century; yet it is a notion whose very mobility challenges the concept’s central tenet of the permanent power of ethnic boundaries…

Read the entire chapter here.


“Never Was Born”: The Mulatto, an American Tragedy?

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2011-10-04 20:53Z by Steven

“Never Was Born”: The Mulatto, an American Tragedy?

The Massachusetts Review
Volume 27, Number 2 (Summer, 1986)
page 293-316

Werner Sollors, Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English Literature and Afro American Studies; Director of the History of American Civilization Program
Harvard University

In my first marriage I paid my compliments to my mother’s race; in my second marriage I paid my compliments to the race of my father.

Frederick Douglass

Nationality demands solidarity. And you can never get solidarity in a nation of equal rights out of two hostile races that do not intermarry. In a Democracy you can not build a nation inside of a nation of two antagonistic races, and therefore the future American must be either an Anglo Saxon or a Mulatto. And if a Mulatto, will the future be worth discussing?

Thomas Dixon, Jr.

In the first Afro American novel, William Wells Brown’s Clotel; or, The Presidents Daughter (1853), Thomas Jefferson’s granddaughter (on the slave side) is described as light complexioned and no darker “than other white children.” Brown’s account continues:

As the child grew older, it more and more resembled its mother. The iris of her large dark eye had the melting mezzotinto, which remains the last vestige of African ancestry, and gives that plaintive expression, so often observed, and so appropriate to that docile and injured race.

This account of a woman who is an Octoroon is one of several of Brown’s Mulatto descriptions and representative of many other nineteenth-century sketches of characters whose hair is “‘straight, soft, fine, and light” and whose eyes usually receive much special attention. Descriptions such as the one of Mary’s melting “mezzotinto” (originally, a method of engraving) generate nervousness and laughter when…

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Werner Sollors to speak at University of Richmond English Department 2010-2011 Writers’ Series

Posted in History, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2010-08-18 04:10Z by Steven

Werner Sollors to speak at University of Richmond English Department 2010-2011 Writers’ Series

University of Richmond
Westhampton Living Room, Westhampton Center
Richmond, Virginia
2010-09-30 16:30 EDT (Local Time)

Werner Sollors, Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English Literature and Afro American Studies; Director of the History of American Civilization Program
Harvard University

Werner Sollors is the Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English Literature and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. His major publications include “Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Literature and Culture;” “Neither Black Nor White Yet Both: Thematic Explorations of Interracial Literature;” and a book-length contribution on “Ethnic Modernism” in Sacvan Bercovitch’s “Cambridge History of American Literature.” With Greil Marcus he wrote “Ethnic Modernism and A New Literary History of America.”

Sollors is the recipient of a 1981 Guggenheim Fellowship and the Constance Rourke award for the best essay in American Quarterly in 1990. In 2000 he was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also a corresponding member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and of the Bayerische Amerika-Akademie. His talk is entitled “The Rise of Ethnic Modernism in the US, 1910-1950.”

For more information, click here.

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An Anthology of Interracial Literature: Black-White Contacts in the Old World and the New

Posted in Anthologies, Books, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Slavery on 2010-08-10 04:14Z by Steven

An Anthology of Interracial Literature: Black-White Contacts in the Old World and the New

New York University Press
675 pages
Cloth ISBN: 9780814781432
Paperback ISBN: 9780814781449

Edited by

Werner Sollors, Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English Literature and Professor of African and African American Studies
Harvard University

A white knight meets his half-black half-brother in battle. A black hero marries a white woman. A slave mother kills her child by a rapist-master. A white-looking person of partly African ancestry passes for white. A master and a slave change places for a single night. An interracial marriage turns sour. The birth of a child brings a crisis. Such are some of the story lines to be found within the pages of An Anthology of Interracial Literature.

This is the first anthology to explore the literary theme of black-white encounters, of love and family stories that cross—or are crossed by—what came to be considered racial boundaries. The anthology extends from Cleobolus’ ancient Greek riddle to tormented encounters in the modern United States, visiting along the way a German medieval chivalric romance, excerpts from Arabian Nights and Italian Renaissance novellas, scenes and plays from Spain, Denmark, England, and the United States, as well as essays, autobiographical sketches, and numerous poems. The authors of the selections include some of the great names of world literature interspersed with lesser-known writers. Themes of interracial love and family relations, passing, and the figure of the Mulatto are threaded through the volume.

An Anthology of Interracial Literature allows scholars, students, and general readers to grapple with the extraordinary diversity in world literature. As multi-racial identification becomes more widespread the ethnic and cultural roots of world literature takes on new meaning.

Contributors include: Hans Christian Andersen, Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Charles W. Chesnutt, Lydia Maria Child, Kate Chopin, Countee Cullen, Caroline Bond Day, Rita Dove, Alexandre Dumas, Olaudah Equiano, Langston Hughes, Victor Hugo, Charles Johnson, Adrienne Kennedy, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Guy de Maupassant, Claude McKay, Eugene O’Neill, Alexander Pushkin, and Jean Toomer.

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ENGL S-88 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: Interracial Literature (32137)

Posted in Arts, Course Offerings, Europe, History, Identity Development/Psychology on 2010-05-05 17:51Z by Steven

ENGL S-88 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: Interracial Literature (32137)

Harvard Summer Program in Venice, Italy: Liberal arts studies in Italy’s city of canals
2010-06-03 through 2010-07-30
Mondays, Wednesdays, 10:00-12:30 CEST (Local Time)
(4 credits: UN, GR) Limited enrollment

Werner Sollors, Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English and African-American Studies
Harvard University

This course examines a wide variety of literary texts on black-white couples, interracial families, and biracial identity, from classical antiquity to the present. Works studied include romances, novellas, plays, novels, short stories, poems, and nonfiction, as well as some films and examples from the visual arts. Topics for discussion range from interracial genealogies to racial “passing,” from representations of racial difference to alternative plot resolutions, and from religious and political to legal and scientific contexts for the changing understanding of race. Focus is on the European tradition and the Harlem Renaissance.

Prerequisites: none.

For more information, click here.

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Passing in the Works of Charles W. Chesnutt

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2010-02-19 21:32Z by Steven

Passing in the Works of Charles W. Chesnutt

University Press of Mississippi
March 2010
160 pages (approx.)
6 x 9 inches, introduction, index
Printed casebinding: 978-1-60473-416-4
Ebook: 978-1-60473-418-8

Edited by:

Susan Prothro Wright, Associate Professor of American and British Literature
Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia

Ernestine Pickens Glass, Professor Emerita of English
Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia

An exploration of a great American writer’s abiding concern with the color line

Essays by Margaret D. Bauer, Keith Byerman, Martha J. Cutter, SallyAnn H. Ferguson, Donald B. Gibson, Scott Thomas Gibson, Aaron Ritzenberg,Werner Sollors, and Susan Prothro Wright.

Passing in the Works of Charles W. Chesnutt is a collection that reevaluates Chesnutt‘s deft manipulation of the “passing” theme to expand understanding of the author’s fiction and nonfiction. Nine contributors apply a variety of theories–including intertextual, signifying/discourse analysis, narratological, formal, psychoanalytical, new historical, reader response, and performative frameworks–to add richness to readings of Chesnutt’s works. Together the essays provide convincing evidence that “passing” is an intricate, essential part of Chesnutt’s writing, and that it appears in all the genres he wielded: journal entries, speeches, essays, and short and long fiction.

The essays engage with each other to display the continuum in Chesnutt’s thinking as he began his writing career and established his sense of social activism, as evidenced in his early journal entries. Collectively, the essays follow Chesnutt’s works as he proceeded through the Jim Crow era, honing his ability to manipulate his mostly white audience through the astute, though apparently self-effacing, narrator, Uncle Julius, of his popular conjure tales. Chesnutt’s ability to subvert audience expectations is equally noticeable in the subtle irony of his short stories. Several of the collection’s essays address Chesnutt’s novels, including Paul Marchand, F.M.C., Mandy Oxendine, The House Behind the Cedars, and Evelyn’s Husband. The volume opens up new paths of inquiry into a major African American writer’s oeuvre.

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