cover of book

Chesnutt and Realism: A Study of the Novels
by Ryan Simmons
University of Alabama Press, 2006
Paper: 978-0-8173-5996-6 | Cloth: 978-0-8173-1520-7 | eISBN: 978-0-8173-8228-5
Library of Congress Classification PS1292.C6Z86 2006
Dewey Decimal Classification 813.4

Provides an important examination of Charles Chesnutt as a practitioner of realism

Although Chesnutt is typically acknowledged as the most prominent African American writer of the realist period, scholars have paid little attention to the central question of this study: what does it mean to call Chesnutt a realist? As a writer whose career was restricted by the dismal racial politics of his era, Chesnutt refused to conform to literary conventions for depicting race. Nor did he use his imaginative skills to evade the realities he and other African Americans faced. Rather, he experimented with ways of portraying reality that could elicit an appropriate, proportionate response to it, as Ryan Simmons demonstrates in extended readings of each of Chesnutt’s novels, including important unpublished works overlooked by previous critics.

In addition, Chesnutt and Realism addresses a curiously neglected subject in American literary studies—the relationship between American literary realism and race. By taking Chesnutt seriously as a contributor to realism, this book articulates the strategies by which one African American intellectual helped to define the discourses that influenced his fate.
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