Catalogue


A question of character : scientific racism and the genres of American fiction, 1892-1912 /
Cathy Boeckmann.
imprint
Tuscaloosa : University of Alabama Press, c2000.
description
viii, 238 p.
ISBN
0817310215 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Tuscaloosa : University of Alabama Press, c2000.
isbn
0817310215 (alk. paper)
contents note
Acknowledgments -- Introduction -- Scientific racism, character, and American fiction -- Thomas Dixon and the rhetorical mulatto -- Pudd'nhead Wilson's phrenological photograph -- Howells and Chesnutt: the racial uses of genre -- Character and black art in the autobiography of an ex-Coloured man -- Epilogue: race and representation -- Notes -- Works cited -- Index.
catalogue key
3582756
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Cathy Boeckmann, an independent scholar, is Communication Specialist at McKinsey and Company in Atlanta.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2000-09-01:
Boeckmann fills in significant gaps in the critical discourse about genre, race, and science at the turn of the century by focusing on the issue of character in novels by Dixon, Twain, Howells, Chesnutt, and James Weldon Johnson. She convincingly argues that when racial difference in a novel is visible and obvious, writers rely on physical description. However, when race is not visible--as in numerous works, especially novels of passing--then it must be described in terms of "character." In other words, a literary character's inherited "character" must be described. Therefore, "an emphasis on inherited race character brought racial theory into a close relationship with literary notions about characterization." Thus, Boeckmann points out, the quandary of racial representation meant that "race theorists could switch their focus from body to character and make character the operative term for race." Her introduction and first chapter are extremely useful for explicating how racial discourse in realism and sentimentalism helps determine genre. The first chapter, in particular, should be required reading for scholars interested in early theories about scientific racism; subsequent chapters provide strong analyses of novels, particularly Howells's An Imperative Duty and Chesnutt's The House Behind the Cedars. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. D. J. Rosenthal; John Carroll University
Reviews
Review Quotes
"[The] discussions of Twain, Howells, Chesnutt, and Johnson . . . lucidly illustrate the ways that four of our major writers struggled to create literary forms enabling them not only to reflect but also to intervene in contemporary racial debates, and in the process to begin shifting the generic boundaries of American literature." - American Literary Realism
"[A Question of Character] fills in significant gaps in the critical discourse about genre, race, and science at the turn of the century. . . . [The] introduction and first chapter are extremely useful for explicating how racial discourse in realism and sentimentalism helps determine genre. . . . [This book] should be required reading for scholars interested in early theories about scientific racism." - Choice
This item was reviewed in:
Reference & Research Book News, August 2000
Choice, September 2000
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Summaries
Main Description
Boeckmann links character, literary genre, and science, revealing how major literary works both contributed to and disrupted the construction of race in turn-of-the-century America. In A Question of Character, Cathy Boeckmann establishes a strong link between racial questions and the development of literary traditions at the end of the 19th century in America. This period saw the rise of "scientific racism," which claimed that the races were distinguished not solely by exterior appearance but also by a set of inherited character traits. As Boeckmann explains, this emphasis on character meant that race was not only a thematic concern in the literature of the period but also a generic or formal one as well. Boeckmann explores the intersections between race and literary history by tracing the language of character through both scientific and literary writing. Nineteenth-century pseudo-sciences such as phrenology and physiognomy had a vocabulary for discussing racial character that overlapped conceptually with the conventions for portraying race in literature. Through close readings of novels by Thomas Dixon, Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, Charles Chesnutt, and James Weldon Johnson-each of which deals with a black character "passing" as white-Boeckmann shows how this emphasis on character relates to the shift from romantic and sentimental fiction to realism. Because each of these genres had very specific conventions regarding the representation of character, genres often dictated how races could be depicted.
Main Description
Boeckmann links character, literary genre, and science, revealing how major literary works both contributed to and disrupted the construction of race in turn-of-the-century America.In A Question of Character, Cathy Boeckmann establishes a strong link between racial questions and the development of literary traditions at the end of the 19th century in America. This period saw the rise of "scientific racism," which claimed that the races were distinguished not solely by exterior appearance but also by a set of inherited character traits. As Boeckmann explains, this emphasis on character meant that race was not only a thematic concern in the literature of the period but also a generic or formal one as well.Boeckmann explores the intersections between race and literary history by tracing the language of character through both scientific and literary writing. Nineteenth-century pseudo-sciences such as phrenology and physiognomy had a vocabulary for discussing racial character that overlapped conceptually with the conventions for portraying race in literature. Through close readings of novels by Thomas Dixon, Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, Charles Chesnutt, and James Weldon Johnson-each of which deals with a black character "passing" as white-Boeckmann shows how this emphasis on character relates to the shift from romantic and sentimental fiction to realism. Because each of these genres had very specific conventions regarding the representation of character, genres often dictated how races could be depicted.
Unpaid Annotation
In A Question of Character, Cathy Boeckmann establishes a strong link between racial questions and the development of literary traditions at the end of the 19th century in America. This period saw the rise of "scientific racism", which claimed that the races were distinguished not solely by exterior appearance but also by a set of inherited character traits. As Boeckmann explains, this emphasis on character meant that race was not only a thematic concern in the literature of the period but also a generic or formal one as well.Boeckmann explores the intersections between race and literary history by tracing the language of character through both scientific and literary writing. Nineteenth-century pseudo-sciences such as phrenology and physiognomy had a vocabulary for discussing racial character that overlapped conceptually with the conventions for portraying race in literature. Through close readings of novels by Thomas Dixon, Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, Charles Chesnutt, and James WeldonJohnson --,each of which deals with a black character "passing" as white -- Boeckmann shows how this emphasis on character relates to the shift from romantic and sentimental fiction to realism. Because each of these genres had very specific conventions regarding the representation of character, genres often dictated how races could be depicted.
Publisher Fact Sheet
Establishes a strong link between racial questions & the development of new literary traditions at the end of the 19th-century in America.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introductionp. 1
Scientific Racism, Character, and American Fictionp. 11
Thomas Dixon and the Rhetorical Mulattop. 63
Pudd'nhead Wilson's Phrenological Photographp. 98
Howells and Chesnutt: The Racial Uses of Genrep. 138
Character and Black Art in The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Manp. 174
Epilogue: Race and Representationp. 205
Notesp. 213
Works Citedp. 227
Indexp. 235
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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