The Word in Black and White: Reading "Race" in American Literature, 1638-1867

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Oxford University Press, Jan 2, 1992 - Literary Criticism - 208 pages
Dana Nelson provides a study of the ways in which Anglo-American authors constructed "race" in their works from the time of the first British colonists through the period of the Civil War. She focuses on some eleven texts, ranging from widely-known to little-considered, that deal with the relations among Native, African, and Anglo-Americans, and places her readings in the historical, social, and material contexts of an evolving U.S. colonialism and internal imperialism. Nelson shows how a novel such as The Last of the Mohicans sought to reify the Anglo historical past and simultaneously suggested strategies that would serve Anglo-Americans against Native Americans as the frontier pushed farther west. Concluding her work with a reading of Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Nelson shows how that text undercuts the racist structures of the pre-Civil War period by positing a revised model of sympathy that authorizes alternative cultural perspectives and requires Anglo-Americans to question their own involvement with racism.
 

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Contents

Race in Early American Literature
3
Reading Race in Two Colonial Texts
22
Bird Cooper Simms and the Frontier Novel
38
Sympathy as Strategy in Hope Leslie and A Romance of the Republic
65
Colonial Motives in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym
90
The Crisis of the Subject in Benito Cereno
109
Harriett Jacobss Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
131
Notes
147
Bibliography
169
Index
185
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About the author (1992)

Dana D. Nelson is Associate Professor of English at Louisiana State University. She is the editor of the Oxford edition of Rebecca Rush's Kelroy.

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