Afro-Realisms and the Romances of Race
Rethinking Blackness in the African American Novel
240 Pages / 5.50 x 8.50 x 0.94 in
- Hardcover /
- 9780807172629 /
- Published: April 2020
- eBook /
- 9780807173411 /
- Published: April 2020
Winner of the SAMLA Studies Award
Honorable Mention for the MLA William Sanders Scarborough Prize
From the 1880s to the early 1900s, a particularly turbulent period of U.S. race relations, the African American novel provided a powerful counternarrative to dominant and pejorative ideas about blackness. In Afro-Realisms and the Romances of Race, Melissa Daniels-Rauterkus uncovers how black and white writers experimented with innovative narrative strategies to revise static and stereotypical views of black identity and experience.
In this provocative and challenging book, Daniels-Rauterkus contests the long-standing idea that African Americans did not write literary realism, along with the inverse misconception that white writers did not make important contributions to African American literature. Taking up key works by Charles W. Chesnutt, Frances E. W. Harper, Pauline Hopkins, William Dean Howells, and Mark Twain, Daniels-Rauterkus argues that authors blended realism with romance, often merging mimetic and melodramatic conventions to advocate on behalf of African Americans, challenge popular theories of racial identity, disrupt the expectations of the literary marketplace, and widen the possibilities for black representation in fiction.
Combining literary history with close textual analysis, Daniels-Rauterkus reads black and white writers alongside each other to demonstrate the reciprocal nature of literary production. Moving beyond discourses of racial authenticity and cultural property, Daniels-Rauterkus stresses the need to organize African American literature around black writers and their meditations on blackness, but she also proposes leaving space for nonblack writers whose use of comparable narrative strategies can facilitate reconsiderations of the complex social order that constitutes race in America.
With Afro-Realisms and the Romances of Race, Daniels-Rauterkus expands critical understandings of American literary realism and African American literature by destabilizing the rigid binaries that too often define discussions of race, genre, and periodization.
Afro-Realisms and the Romances of Race breathes new life into ongoing debates on how central African American fiction is to the very definition of American realism. It is a bold book that will spark new conversations among scholars and readers. ~M. Giulia Fabi, author of Passing and the Rise of the African American Novel
Going beyond an additive model of inserting a few black writers into discussions of American realism, Daniels-Rauterkus highlights how realism evolves as a benefit of black and white writers’ reciprocal literary influences across the color line. Devising a style of realism tinged with a bit of romance, black and white writers drew on shared literary strategies to represent race, difference, and black social life. Provocative and richly engaging, this book will be a welcome addition to discussions of nineteenth-century U.S. literature and African American literature, traditions that the author rightly recognizes as inextricably connected. ~Andreá N. Williams, author of Dividing Lines: Class Anxiety and Postbellum Black