By Charles Duncan
Following the hugely autobiographical nonfiction produced by way of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and different slave narrative writers, Chesnutt's complicated, 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 vital critics of his day, and from such famous 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 will be traced to his amazing narrative subtlety. Profoundly conscious of the delicacy of his state of affairs as a black highbrow on the flip of the century, Chesnutt infused his paintings with an difficult, enigmatic inventive imaginative and prescient that defies monolithic or unambiguously political interpretation, in particular with reference to problems with race and id that preoccupied him all through his career.
In this primary book-length research of the cutting edge brief fiction, Duncan devotes specific recognition to elucidating those subtle narrative ideas because the grounding for Chesnutt's inauguration of a practice of African-American fiction.
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Extra resources for Absent Man: Narrative Craft Of Charles W. Chestnutt
Now, however, it is known that the authorof this stoly is of negro blood. (“Mr. Charles W. Chesnutt’s Stories”699) Howells’s opinion that the author’srace and allegiances are not readily detectable from his fiction speaks to Chesnutt’s cornmand of diverse voices. It also reflects the tendency of readers, even those as exceptionally skillfd andwell-intentioned as Howells, to welcome contextualizing data as a means of situatirzg themselves in relationship to Chesnutt. Despite the extent to which Chesnutt and his works frustrate attempts to categorize him, he continues to be defined almost exclusively in terms of an issue-racial prejudice-he had hoped would become obsolete.
Doeshe sympathize with the existence of a color caste withinthe race? Is he holding his charactersup to ridicule? Of what is he trying to convince us? In this and other stories one seems alwaysat the point of making a discovery about the author, but the discovely never matures. (7 1 ) ? l Intentionally or not, Chesnutt the author seemsto don the mask with which he so craftily disguises hiscreations. In stories as varied as The Conjure Wonznn tales, “The Shadow of My Past,” “The Passingof Grandison,” “Baxter’s Procrustes,” and “Mr.
Although afew black writers-most notably Phillis Wheatley and Olaudah Equiano-published during the eighteenth century, African-American literature originated for the most part with slave narratives that articulated, from an eyewitness and very personal perspective, what it was to be black in the antebellum South. Before the Civil War, writers such as Douglass, Introduction Jacobs, Henry Bibb, Solomon Northrup,and WilliamWells Brown created what Donald A. Peteschcalls “a literature of reportage” (4).
Absent Man: Narrative Craft Of Charles W. Chestnutt by Charles Duncan