By Charles Duncan
Following the hugely autobiographical nonfiction produced via 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 fashionable readers as William L. Andrews, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Eric Sundquist in ours, Chesnutt occupies a apparently ambiguous position in American literary history.
In The Absent Man, Charles Duncan demonstrates that Chesnutt's uneasy place within the American literary culture could be traced to his extraordinary 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 elaborate, enigmatic creative imaginative and prescient that defies monolithic or unambiguously political interpretation, specially in regards to problems with race and id that preoccupied him all through his career.
In this primary book-length examine of the leading edge brief fiction, Duncan devotes specific recognition to elucidating those subtle narrative suggestions because the grounding for Chesnutt's inauguration of a practice of African-American fiction.
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Extra info for Absent Man: Narrative Craft Of Charles W. Chestnutt
In the first instance, the mulatto doctor is forced into exile, is subject, that is, to the caprices of an unjust legal and social system. The passage from The Marrow of Tradition quoted above, and indeed all of the novel, comments overtly on those injustices in an attempt to effect social change. l As a meansof capitalizing on that“cultural ambiguity” in his writings, however, Chesnutt regularly plays loose and fast with legal and social restrictions, a strategy that occasionally strains his relationship with readers of his own time and ours.
36Chesnutt’s experimentation withvoices, combined withhis naturally enigmatic authorial identity, makes him especially susceptible to misapprehension by those who seek affirmation of a specific ideology. Although African-American literature has Introduction generated extensive commentary in the past twenty-five years, some readers argue that it attracts a different kind of inquiry than that accordedto more entrenched,canonical works. , explores what he sees as a dominant approach to black literature: For all sorts of complex historical reasons, the very act of writing has been a “political” act for the black author.
Explores what he sees as a dominant approach to black literature: For all sorts of complex historical reasons, the very act of writing has been a “political” act for the black author. Even our most solipsistic texts, at least since the Enlightenment in Europe, have been treated as political evidence one of sortor another, both implicitlyand explicitly. And, becauseour life in the West has been one political struggle after another,our literature has been defined from without, and rather often from within, as primarilyjust one more polemic in those struggles.