Daniel Hack’s new book is a story about prepositions. Tracking African American writers’ and editors’ engagements with Victorian literature from the middle of the nineteenth century through the first decade of the twentieth, Hack painstakingly demonstrates their variability and multidirectionality. Anna Julia Cooper does work “on and with” Tennyson’s In Memoriam (1850) in her own A Voice from the South (1892; 11); later authors, editors, and intellectuals “build on and respond to prior African Americanizations” of individual works (33), as when Charles Dickens’s Bleak House (1852–53) is reprinted in Frederick Douglass’ Paper and rewritten in Hannah Craft’s Bondwoman’s Narrative (ca. 1853–61); Frances E. W. Harper, meanwhile, thematizes questions of social stigma and ethnic affiliation through tropes that she and other writers “extract from and associate with” George Eliot’s narrative poem The Spanish Gypsy (1868; 85); and Charles Chesnutt’s House behind the Cedars...
Nicholas T Rinehart; Reaping Something New: African American Transformations of Victorian Literature. Modern Language Quarterly 1 June 2018; 79 (2): 237–240. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-4368276
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