Black and white strangers : race and American literary realism /

From Abraham Lincoln's wry observation that Harriet Beecher Stowe was "the little lady who made this big war" to Mark Twain's "wild proposition" that Walter Scott had somehow touched off sectional hostilities, there have been many competing theories about the impact of...

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Main Author: Warren, Kenneth W. (Author)
Format: Book
Published:Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1993.
Series:Black literature and culture.
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Warren (Univ. of Chicago) contends in this dissertation that the literary form of realism, though not specifically about race, did nevertheless forge the concept of Jim Crow. Quoting Albion Tourgee, Warren states that the realists, while professing to view society as it really was, falsified the true nature of black "reality" by their ability to distort yet appear definitive, telling only the "weakest and meanest part of the grand truth ..." To make this case, the author analyzes works of William Dean Howells and Henry James. Citations culled from James note that James's references to black Americans veer little from commonly held stereotypes. Race is always at work, Warren says, and therefore is also even part of works where African Americans do not appear. This assessment of 19th-century American literature offers, as evidence, competing accounts of how narratives shaped American society, and it notably avoids holding to account American literary naturalists such as Crane, Dreiser, Norris, and London, whose emphasis was not a masquerading depiction of middle-class society. The conclusion is a map of current academic literary controversy. Advanced undergraduate; graduate; general. A. Hirsh; Central Connecticut State University

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