By Charles Duncan
Following the hugely autobiographical nonfiction produced through Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and different slave narrative writers, Chesnutt's complicated, multi-layered brief fiction reworked the connection among African-American writers and their readers. yet regardless of beneficiant compliment from W. D. Howells and different vital critics of his day, and from such favourite 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 may be traced to his striking 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 complex, enigmatic inventive imaginative and prescient that defies monolithic or unambiguously political interpretation, specially with reference to problems with race and id that preoccupied him all through his career.
In this primary book-length learn of the cutting edge brief fiction, Duncan devotes specific realization to elucidating those refined narrative concepts because the grounding for Chesnutt's inauguration of a convention of African-American fiction.
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Additional info for Absent Man: Narrative Craft Of Charles W. Chestnutt
His skill in exploring varied perspectives, ironically, has inspired some energetic attacks on his reputation, often apparently motivated precisely because Chesnutt’s work resiststhe unambiguously political messages late-twentiethcentuly sensibilities seem to favor. One recent reader, SallyAnn H. Ferguson, chides Chesnutt for being “a social and literaly accommodationist who pointedly and repeatedlyconfines his reformist impulses” to efforts on behalf of those with mixed blood ( log). It ought to be also a matter of serious concern to the Southern white people: for if their zeal for good government isso great that they contemplate the practical overthrow of the Constitution and laws of the United States to secure it, they ought at least to be sure that no man entitled to itby their own argument, is robbed of a rightso precious as that of free citizenship: the “all-pervading, all-conquering Anglo-Saxon” ought to setas high a value on American citizenship as the allconquering Roman placed upon the franchise of his Statetwo thousand years ago.
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. For while the conductor in Murrow visually recognizes his passenger’s “blackness”-a recognition that triggers his discriminatory act-the passenger in the essay (presumably Chesnutt himself) cannot be so readily classified by race, suggesting that he is what in the late nineteenth century would have been termed a mulatto.
The exchange here between Chesnutt and the anonymous conductor provides more than an incisive scrutiny ofsocial injustices. It also offersinsights into several of the thematic patterns that pervade, and often govern, Chesnutt’s fiction and nonfiction writings throughout his career. His arrangement of this anecdote plays on themutability of identity, an issue central to virtually all of his writings, but morepointedly satirizes those whoassertsocial taxonomies based on race. ”* But Chesnutt chooses in this essay, and indeed throughouthis career, to foreground explicitly the very doubts aboutrace that so unsettle his readers, including railway conductors.
Absent Man: Narrative Craft Of Charles W. Chestnutt by Charles Duncan