Chaotic Justice: Rethinking African American Literary History / Edition 1

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Overview

What is African American about African American literature? Why identify it as a distinct tradition? John Ernest contends that too often scholars have relied on naive concepts of race, superficial conceptions of African American history, and the marginalization of important strains of black scholarship. With this book, he creates a new and just retelling of African American literary history that neither ignores nor transcends racial history.

Ernest revisits the work of nineteenth-century writers and activists such as Henry "Box" Brown, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Wilson, William Wells Brown, and Sojourner Truth, demonstrating that their concepts of justice were far more radical than those imagined by most white sympathizers. He sheds light on the process of reading, publishing, studying, and historicizing this work during the twentieth century. Looking ahead to the future of the field, Ernest offers new principles of justice that grant fragmented histories, partial recoveries, and still-unprinted texts the same value as canonized works. His proposal is both a historically informed critique of the field and an invigorating challenge to present and future scholars.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
One of the most eloquent, thought-provoking, learned, theoretically innovative (Ernest not only draws from chaos theory but also from choreography!) and consequently, at least potentially, interesting attempts to counter the idea that we need to move beyond race.--Ethnic and Racial Studies

[A] thoughtful study. . . . Importantly affirms the continuing need, in courses and in scholarship, for work focused specifically on the African American tradition.--Journal of American History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807859834
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 11/15/2009
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

John Ernest is Eberly Family Distinguished Professor of American Literature at West Virginia University. He is author or editor of six books, including Liberation Historiography: African American Writers and the Challenge of History, 1794-1861 (UNC Press).
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction Loosed Canons The Race for Literary History 1

Chapter 1 Representing Chaos and Reading Race 35

Chapter 2 Truth Stranger than Fiction African American Identity and (Auto)Biography 75

Chapter 3 The Shortest Point between Two Lines Writing African Americans into American Literary History 112

Chapter 4 Choreographing Chaos African American Literature in Time and Space 147

Chapter 5 The Story at the End of the Story African American Literature and the Civil War 193

Conclusion Covenants and Communities The Demands of African American Literature 242

Notes 255

Bibliography 275

Index 309

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