To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature

By: Sundquist, Eric J.

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This powerful book argues that white culture in America does not exist apart from black culture. The revolution of the rights of man that established this country collided long ago with the system of slavery, and we have been trying to reestablish a steady course for ourselves ever since. "To Wake the Nations" is urgent and rousing: we have integrated our buses, schools, and factories, but not the canon of American literature. That is the task Eric Sundquist has assumed in a book that ranges from politics to literature, from Uncle Remus to African American spirituals. But the hallmark of this volume is a sweeping reevaluation of the glory years of American literature--from 1830 to 1930--that shows how white literature and black literature form a single interwoven tradition.

By examining African America's contested relation to the intellectual and literary forms of white culture, Sundquist reconstructs the main lines of American literary tradition from the decades before the Civil War through the early twentieth century. An opening discussion of Nat Turner's "Confessions," recorded by a white man, Thomas Gray, establishes a paradigm for the complexity of meanings that Sundquist uncovers in American literary texts. Focusing on Frederick Douglass's autobiographical books, Herman Melville's "Benito Cereno," Martin Delany's novel "Blake; or the Huts of America," Mark Twain's "Pudd'nhead Wilson," Charles Chesnutt's fiction, and W.E.B. Du Bois's "The Souls of Black Folk" and "Darkwater," Sundquist considers each text against a rich background of history, law, literature, politics, religion, folklore, music, and dance. These readings lead to insights into components of the culture at large: slavery as it intersected with postcolonial revolutionary ideology; literary representations of the legal and political foundations of segregation; and the transformation of elements of African and antebellum folk consciousness into the public forms of American literature.

"Almost certainly the finest book yet written on race and American literature," writes Arnold Rampersad of Princeton University. "To Wake the Nations" "amounts to a startlingly penetrating commentary on American culture, a commentary that should have a powerful impact on areas far beyond the texts investigated here."

Title: To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature

Author Name: Sundquist, Eric J.

Categories: Literary Criticism/Comment,

Edition: Third Printing

Publisher: Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A., Belknap Press: 1994

ISBN Number: 067489331X

ISBN Number 13: 9780674893313

Binding: Oversized Trade Paperback

Book Condition: Very Good

Seller ID: 008506

Description: Appears unread with no creasing to spine, sl. edgewear to wraps.