Calls and Responses
The American Novel of Slavery since Gone with the Wind
Publication Year: 2008
Published by: Louisiana State University Press
Series: Southern Literary Studies
Cover, Title Page, Copyright
The central argument of this study of American slavery in fiction and history of the last century is that a truly scholarly approach to the subject should seek to transcend basic binary oppositions and divisive barriers, whether these are between...
Introduction: Calls and Responses
When Toni Morrison published what would become her most renowned novel, she was worried that Beloved’s depiction of slavery might make it “the least read of all the books I’d written because it is about something that the characters don’t want to remember,...
1. Designs against Tara: Representing Slavery in American Culture, 1936–1944
In 2001, Alice Randall’s The Wind Done Gone—a parodic rejoinder to Margaret Mitchell’s perennially popular 1936 melodrama, Gone with the Wind—reignited cultural debates about representations of race and slavery in American fiction, as well as legal controversies...
2. From Tara to Turner: Slavery and Slave Psychologies in American Fiction and History, 1945–1968
In 1968—a full thirty-two years after its first appearance—Beacon Press republished Black Thunder. Arna Bontemps begins his introduction to this new edition of the novel with the words, “Time is not a river. Time is a pendulum.” History, Bontemps suggests, is not linear...
3. You Shall See How a Slave Was Made a Woman: The Development of the Contemporary Novel of Slavery, 1976–1987
Within a decade of the appearance of The Confessions of Nat Turner, Styron’s representation of slavery had been thoroughly eclipsed in the popular mind by the massive cultural phenomenon of Alex Haley’s Roots—both as a Pulitzer Prize–winning...
4. Scarlett and Mammy Done Gone: Complications of the Contemporary Novel of Slavery, 1986–2003
Kindred's innovative strategies for representing American slavery in fiction swiftly became predominant. Virtually all novels concerned with the peculiar institution published since the 1970s combine conventional realism with postmodernist intertextuality, and thus engage...
5. Mapping the Unrepresentable: Slavery Fiction in the New Millennium
In his famously dismissive comments about the historical novel, Henry James observed that the genre is “condemned . . . to a fatal cheapness for the simple reason that the difficulty of the job is inordinate” (quoted in Horne 360). James’s own experience with the genre...
Conclusion: Beyond Black and White
This study demonstrates that the contemporary novel of slavery has not torn down a monolithic version of history that ruled unchallenged for two centuries or more. Nonetheless, novels about slavery continue to perform valuable cultural work, as they always have...
Appendix: Major Historical Studies, Fiction, Drama, Films, and TV Presentations since 1918 concerning Slavery in the United States
The following is not intended to be an exhaustively comprehensive survey. So many works have addressed American slavery in one form or another that to catalog them all is neither feasible nor desirable. The purpose of this appendix is to give the reader a clear timeline of the general...