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  • Wedded to Race:Charles Chesnutt's Stories of the Color Line
  • Tess Chakkalakal
Tess Chakkalakal
Bowdoin College


1. All citations of Chesnutt's works are from Charles W. Chesnutt, Stories, Novels and Essays (New York: Library Classics of the United States, Inc., 2002); hereafter cited parenthetically.

2. Ann duCille, The Coupling Convention: Sex, Text, and Tradition in Black Women's Fiction (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1993), 2.

3. See Nancy F. Cott, Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 2000), 33; and Margaret A. Burnham, "An Impossible Marriage: Slave Law and Family Law," Law and Inequality 5 (1987), 187-90.

4. Herbert Gutman provides one of the first and most enlightening investigations into the nature of slave marriages and their ability to withstand enforced separations both during and after the Civil War. See Gutman, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925 (New York: Vintage Books, 1976), 3-37.

5. Cott, 84.

6. See Nancy Bentley, "The Strange Career of Love and Slavery: Chesnutt, Engels, Masoch," American Literary History, 17 (2005), 463.

7. Gregg D. Crane, Race, Citizenship, and Law in American Literature (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002), 196.

8. Charles Duncan, "Telling Genealogy: Notions of Family in The Wife of His Youth," in Critical Essays on Charles Chesnutt, ed. Joseph R. McElrath, Jr. (New York: G. K. Hall & Co., 1999), 282.

9. Henry Wonham, "What is a Black Author?: A Review of Recent Charles Chesnutt Studies," American Literary History, 18 (2006), 831.

10. duCille, 16.

11. Quoted in Helen M. Chesnutt, Charles Waddell Chesnutt: Pioneer of the Color Line (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1952), 98.

12. Quoted in Helen M. Chesnutt, Charles Waddell Chesnutt, 98.

13. Quoted in Helen M. Chesnutt, Charles Waddell Chesnutt, 102.

14. duCille, 16.

15. Sally Ann Ferguson, "Chesnutt's Genuine Blacks and Future Americans," MELUS 15 (Autumn, 1988), 109, and Matthew Wilson, Whiteness in the Novels of Charles W. Chesnutt (Jackson: Univ. of Mississippi Press, 2004), 11.

16. Amy Dru Stanley, From Bondage to Contract (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998), 35.

17. Eric J. Sundquist, To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1993), 301.

18. Cott, 1.

19. Claudia Tate, "Allegories of Black Female Desire; or, Rereading Nineteenth Century Sentimental Narratives of Black Female Authority," in Changing Our Own Words: Essays on Criticism, Theory, and Writing by Black Women, ed. Cheryl A. Wall (New Brunswick: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1989), 103.

20. Bentley, 463.

21. Chesnutt is typically characterized as a writer in the realist tradition and his contributions to literary realism continue to dominate critical discussions of his fiction. See, for example, Ryan Simmons, Chesnutt and Realism: A Study of the Novels (Tuscaloosa: Univ. of Alabama Press, 2006), 1-11.

22. Ross Posnock, Color & Culture: Black Writers and the Making of the Modern Intellectual (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1998), 5.



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