"With subtlety and discrimination, McWilliams's Charles W. Chesnutt and the Fictions of Race forces a new understanding of Chesnutt's position on race and the revealing contradictions within his writings—contradictions inherent in the discourse available to him at the dawn of the twentieth century. This book will be a crucial reference point for future work on Chesnutt and literary confrontations with the color line."
—George Hutchinson, Indiana University, Bloomington
"Explains why he deserves that attention, and offers a glimpse of what it might yield toward a new understanding of the discourse of racial identity in American literature."
"An important contribution to the study of a writer who is finally receiving his due."
—American Literary Realism
"Particularly attentive to Chesnutt's prescient insights about race, McWilliams argues that Chesnutt, with his interest in liminality and his modern conception of language, is most accurately located on the cusp of the twentieth century."
"An indispensable work of African American literary theory and criticism."
The published canon of Chesnutt's work has doubled in the last decade: three novels completed but unpublished in Chesnutt's life have appeared, as have scholarly editions of Chesnutt's journals, his letters, and his essays. This book is the first to offer chapter-length analyses of each of Chesnutt's six novels. It also devotes three chapters to his short fiction. Previous critics have read Chesnutt's nonfiction as biographical background for his fiction. McWilliams is the first to analyze these nonfiction texts as complex verbal artifacts embodying many of the same tensions and ambiguities found in Chesnutt's stories and novels. The book includes separate chapters on Chesnutt's journal and on his important essay "The Future American." Moreover, Charles W. Chesnutt and the Fictions of Race approaches Chesnutt's writings from the perspective of recent literary theory. To a greater extent than any previous study of Chesnutt, it explores the way his texts interrogate and deconstruct the language and the intellectual constructs we use to organize reality.
The full effect of this new study is to show us how much more of a twentieth-century writer Chesnutt is than has been previously acknowledged. This accomplishment can only hasten his reemergence as one of our most important observers of race in American culture.
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List price: $44.95
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