Rape, Race, and Lynching

Rape, Race, and Lynching : The Red Record of American Literature, 1890-1912

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In the late nineteenth century, the stereotype of the black male as sexual beast functioned for white supremacists as an externalized symbol of social chaos against which all whites would unite for the purpose of national renewal. The emergence of this stereotype in American culture and literature during and after Reconstruction was related to the growth of white-on-black violence, as white lynch mobs acted in "defence" of white womanhood, the white family, and white nationalism. In Rape, Race, and Lynching Sandra Gunning investigates American literary encounters with the conditions, processes, and consequences of such violence through the representation of not just the black rapist stereotype, but of other crucial stereotypes in mediating moments of white social crisis: "lascivious" black womanhood; avenging white masculinity; and passive white femininity. Gunning argues that these figures together signify the tangle of race and gender representation emerging from turn-of-the-century American literature. The book brings together Charles W. Chestnutt, Kate Chopin, Thomas Dixon, David Bryant Fulton, Pauline Hopkins, Mark Twain, and Ida B. Wells: famous, infamous, or long-neglected figures who produced novels, essays, stories, and pamphlets in the volatile period of the 1890s to the early 1900s, and who contributed to the continual renegotiation and redefinition of the terms and boundaries of a national dialogue on racial violence.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 206 pages
  • 161.3 x 241.6 x 20.6mm | 517.55g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195099907
  • 9780195099904

Review quote

Challenging and comprehensive....The analyses of the fiction are sound, illuminating, and rigorously argued, alert to the ways novels both subvert and reinforce racist ideology. * Choice *show more

Back cover copy

Looking at the work of Charles W. Chesnutt, Kate Chopin, Thomas Dixon, David Bryant Fulton, Pauline Hopkins, Mark Twain, and Ida B. Wells, Sandra Gunning examines a range of writers who contributed to the national renegotiation and redefinition of the terms and boundaries of a national dialogue on race, gender, and lynching. In doing so, she argues for a clearer analysis of the issues that were mediated by the figure of the black rapist: namely differing national and community concerns about the black family, black women and rape, white female agency, and black as well as white masculinity as very different, but equally embattled cultural and social positions. Taken together, Gunning argues, these concerns signify the tangle of race and gender which characterized nineteenth century literature on lynching. Race, Rape, and Lynching, the newest addition to the Race and American Culture series, offers the most in-depth discussion on the interplay between sexuality and race in nineteenth-century American literature. In particular, Gunning's focus on the literary strategies of women writers in addressing issues of rape and lynching widens the lens through which we see this volatile period in American history and culture. The book is certain to interest readers across disciplines, including literary, African-American, and women studies.show more

About Sandra Gunning

Sandra Gunning is Assistant Professor in the Department of American Studies at the College of William and Mary.show more

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