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 admired 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 might be traced to his awesome 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 complex, enigmatic creative 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 examine of the cutting edge brief fiction, Duncan devotes specific awareness to elucidating those refined narrative thoughts 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
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. Questions of identity have long dominated discussions of African-American literature. When asked during a 1955 interview whether the quest for identity was “primarily an American theme,” Ralph Ellison offered a definitive response: “It is the American theme. **That the investigation of the self forms an essential component of American literature is nowhere more apparent than in African-American writings.
The conductorof a train has the power ofan autocrat. He nods his Jove-like head, corrugates his high Caucasian brow and the Negro seldom argues, because there isno use in doing so. ” “Since last July,” he answered. ” “No, they don’t mind it. Some of them kicked a little at first-a nigger likes to show off, you know, put on a little airs; but I told ’em itwas the law, and they would have to submit,as I had to. Personally I don’t mean to take any chances; I’ve been hauled up in court once, or threatened withit, for not enforcing the law.
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. Taylor’s Funeral,” Chesnutt thus establishes his own peculiarly inscribed absence. And as happens withhis protagonists in these stories and others, Chesnutt’s authorial self-masking both empowers and binds him. Like many of his characters, Chesnutt-the “absent 1nan””authors an identity for himself that remains, finally, inscrutable to his readers.
Absent Man: Narrative Craft Of Charles W. Chestnutt by Charles Duncan