Review by Choice Review
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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