By Charles Duncan
Following the hugely autobiographical nonfiction produced via Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and different slave narrative writers, Chesnutt's advanced, 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 very important critics of his day, and from such sought after 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 could be traced to his impressive 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 tricky, enigmatic inventive imaginative and prescient that defies monolithic or unambiguously political interpretation, specifically 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 recognition to elucidating those refined narrative techniques because the grounding for Chesnutt's inauguration of a practice of African-American fiction.
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Additional info for Absent Man: Narrative Craft Of Charles W. Chestnutt
This limitation applies particularly to those Introduction who are not “peopleof color,” for one’s own existential or “subject” position inflectswhat one says independently of the propositional contentof assertions. ” Indeed, Chesnutt’s complex narrative strategies and elaborate masking devices contribute in no small part to the author’s current status as literary cipher. In a story such as “Her Virginia Mammy,”for example,he constructs a tale that invites attention as an apparent endorsement of miscegenation, an extremely controversial position for a turn-of-the-century black writer to take.
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. Taylor’s Funeral,” Chesnutt thus establishes his own peculiarly inscribed absence.
But Chesnutt’s ability to reproduce dialects and his deft handling of disparate voices represent only a fraction of the variety that characterizes his work. Writingabout The Wqeof His Youth and Other Stories of the Color Line ( 1 Sgg), Lorne Fienberg assesses the thematic and structural range of Chesnutt’s fiction: In the arrangementof the nine stories in the collection, there is a ceaseless oscillation across boundaries: from present to past, from North to South, from freedom to slavery and back again.