By A. Kent
This e-book examines literature by means of African, local, and Jewish American novelists at the start of the 20th century, a interval of radical dislocation from homelands for those 3 ethnic teams in addition to the interval whilst such voices verified themselves as important figures within the American literary canon.
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Extra resources for African, Native, and Jewish American Literature and the Reshaping of Modernism
Yezierska’s and Cahan’s rags-to-riches novels challenge the very genre they use in their protagonists’ sense of homelessness in modernity. Mourning Dove’s western romance novel resignifies the genre to counter the static portrait of traditional Indian culture it perpetuated, while Chesnutt’s genre blending in his realist novel demonstrates the relevance of romantic literary conventions to the modern experience of African Americans. These writers had to write within the space already constructed for them as Jews, “Injuns,” and “Negroes,” as primitive and unchanging, as old world and traditional, but fiction allowed INTRODUCTION 25 them to write their way out of those spaces and to author their way into modernity.
Similarly, Mourning Dove’s editor claimed her novel Cogewea, the Half-Blood (1927) was a factual, historical account written by a “real” Indian. Despite such misreadings, the writers examined in this book resisted the genre pressures to write “real” accounts and instead chose to write fiction in response to the rapid changes of modernity. The following chapters examine in more depth six particularly intriguing, if not necessarily representative, novels by African, Native and Jewish American writers.
CHAPTER 2 African Americans: Moving from Caricatures to Creators, Charles Chesnutt and Zora Neale Hurston The Negro has been a man without a history because he has been considered a man without a worthy culture. —Arthur Schomburg, “The Negro Digs Up His Past” (942) In the wake of the failures of Reconstruction, in the midst of increased violence against African Americans, and on the eve of the Harlem Renaissance, Arthur Schomburg offered this call in “The Negro Digs Up His Past” (1925): “The American Negro must remake his past in order to make his future.