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with one's own concept ofreality. As I followed Harris's very rational exploration of the supernatural occurrences in Mama Day and "Clarence and the Dead," which omits question ofthe believability of these events, I was reminded of Gay Wilentz's article on Toni Morrison's Song ofSolomon (in African American Review, 1992). That essay challenges a reader who might jump to the conclusion that Milkman's final "flight" is suicide because people can't fly. The character is, after all, a descendent offlyingAfricans; denying his ability to fly, then, is a rejection of his cultural heritage. When I pose Wilentz's question, "whether Milkman dies or flies," to my students, I ask them to compare the legend of flying Africans to a pretty incredible legend that most ofthem accept without question: the legend of Jesus rising from the dead. What is the difference between these legends other than the cultures out of which each seemingly impossible feat emerges? Harris seems to be asking readers of Hurston, Naylor, and Kenan for a similar acceptance of another culture's beliefs that Wilentz asks of Morrison's readers. In her preface Harris mentions another ofKenan's recurrent themes: the conflict between homosexuality and traditional Christianity, but she includes only a brief reference to "The Foundations of the Earth," in which Kenan discussed this conflict perhaps most poignantly. Similarly, Harris mentions other controversial subjects in his work before proceeding to his use of the supernatural. Thus, Harris's chapter on Kenan, while it provides a close reading of only one story, still introduces this new writer to readers who may be approaching his work for the first time. Knights of Spain, Warriors of the Sun Hernando de Soto and the South's Ancient Chiefdoms By Charles Hudson University of Georgia Press, 1997 559 pp. Cloth, $34.95 Reviewed by Peter H. Wood, professor of early American history at Duke University, where he regularly teaches courses on colonial history and Native American history. His article on die French explorer La Salle appeared in the April 1984 issue of the American Historical Review. In 1 847 while debate over the controversial War with Mexico raged in Congress, the decoration of Charles Bulfinch's U.S. Capitol Building was nearing comple70 Reviews tion. John Trumbull's four epic scenes of the revolutionary era had graced one side of the massive Rotunda for several decades, and three paintings featuring Columbus, Pocahontas, and the Pilgrims had recently been added. At last a congressional committee, attentive to sectional divisions, selected an Ohio artist to depict a Deep South scene with implications for westward expansion: William H. Powell would portray the Discovery ofthe Mississippi by De Soto, a.D. 1J41. The finished painting showed the Spanish explorer on a white horse, flanked by a heavy cannon and a massive cross, accepting the submission of feathered Indians huddled before western-style teepees. By the time Powell's symbolic image of De Soto was finally installed in 1854, the self-made adventurer was becoming a permanent feature in the American pantheon of Christian explorers/founders. Part of the era's fascination with De Soto and the narratives of his sixteenthcentury entrada sprang from the exploration of ancient Indian mounds by newcomers to the Mississippi Valley. For instance, one such amateur archaeologist, Dr. M. W. Dickeson, teamed with artistJ. J. Egan in 1 8 5o to create a continuous painting, more than 7 feet high and nearly 3 5o feet long, displaying dramatic scenes from the region, past and present, which could be unfurled before paying customers. A century later, as a small boy growing up in St. Louis, I watched this same Mississippi Panorama unwind once again in a captivating museum exhibit in 1949. More than the images of tornadoes, steamboats, or "Dr. Dickeson Excavating a Mound," the scene I recall most vividly (and which engaged the imagination of a six-year-old with a fascination of early southern history) was entitled "The Burial ofDe Soto." It depicted loyal followers secretly lowering the body of their leader into the Mississippi by moonlight in May 1 542, so that local Indians would not learn of his death. Little happened between 1850 and 1950...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 70-73
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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