By Charles Duncan
Following the hugely autobiographical nonfiction produced by way of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and different slave narrative writers, Chesnutt's advanced, multi-layered brief fiction remodeled the connection among African-American writers and their readers. yet regardless of beneficiant compliment from W. D. Howells and different very important critics of his day, and from such trendy readers as William L. Andrews, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Eric Sundquist in ours, Chesnutt occupies a interestingly ambiguous position in American literary history.
In The Absent Man, Charles Duncan demonstrates that Chesnutt's uneasy place within the American literary culture should be traced to his impressive narrative subtlety. Profoundly conscious of the delicacy of his scenario as a black highbrow on the flip of the century, Chesnutt infused his paintings with an complicated, enigmatic inventive imaginative and prescient that defies monolithic or unambiguously political interpretation, specifically in regards to problems with race and identification that preoccupied him all through his career.
In this primary book-length learn of the cutting edge brief fiction, Duncan devotes specific recognition to elucidating those subtle narrative thoughts because the grounding for Chesnutt's inauguration of a practice of African-American fiction.
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Additional info for Absent Man: Narrative Craft Of Charles W. Chestnutt
I’d let him stay there,” replied the conductor, with unconcealed disgust, which seemed almost to include the questioner who could suppose sucha case. “Anyone that is fool enough to rather bea nigger than a white man may have his choice. ”(13) This passage has obviously relevant implications for readers of Chesnutt, particularly in regard tohis lifelong devotion to studying the color line. The conversation exposes the fallibility of the Jim Crow laws in general while satirically examining the method of enforcement.
While he grappled in his fiction with questions of personal and social identity, of the relationship between textual constructs and the culture that both begot and resulted from them, readers have tended to agree with Richard Watson Gilder, the editor of Century, who in an 1890 letter to George Washington Cable described Chesnutt’s work as “amorphous-not so much in construction as in Sentimend’ (qtd. in McElrath and Leitz 67). For Gilder, for turn-of-the-century and modern readers, and for Chesnutt himself, there is ultimately something unresolved and unresolvable about Chesnutt’s artistic identity.
Anyone that is fool enough to rather bea nigger than a white man may have his choice. ”(13) This passage has obviously relevant implications for readers of Chesnutt, particularly in regard tohis lifelong devotion to studying the color line. The conversation exposes the fallibility of the Jim Crow laws in general while satirically examining the method of enforcement. But if the railway episode from The Marrow of Trudition confirms Wiegman’s premise that social and cultural institutions rely unreflectively on what she calls “the epistemology of the visual” (8), Chesnutt’s encounter with the conductor in “The White and the Black” enacts the subversive possibilities generated by precisely such a reliance.
Absent Man: Narrative Craft Of Charles W. Chestnutt by Charles Duncan