Don James McLaughlin is a PhD candidate in English at the University of Pennsylvania. He is currently completing a dissertation titled “Infectious Affect: The Phobic Imagination in American Literature,” which explores the rise of phobia in late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century US print culture as a political metaphor, evolving diagnosis, and aesthetic sensation. His dissertation research has been supported by fellowships from the Penn Humanities Forum, the American Antiquarian Society, and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies. His writing has appeared in the New Republic and Legacies, the magazine of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Don James McLaughlin; Inventing Queer: Portals, Hauntings, and Other Fantastic Tricks in the Collected Folklore of Joel Chandler Harris and Charles Chesnutt. American Literature 1 March 2017; 89 (1): 1–28. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-3788693
Through an analysis of Little Mr. Thimblefinger and His Queer Country (1894) by Joel Chandler Harris and The Conjure Woman and Other Conjure Tales (1899) by Charles Chesnutt, this essay attempts to account for a late nineteenth-century genre termed the queer fantastic. In so doing, it suggests that in the late nineteenth century, the term queer, as a signifier of distorted time, became central to debates over race and the nature of folkloric belonging.