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Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture Race, Work, and Desire in American Literature, 1860-1930

by Michele (University of Puget Sound, Washington) Birnbaum

Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture Race, Work, and Desire in American Literature, 1860-1930 Synopsis

Race, Work and Desire analyses literary representations of work relationships across the colour-line from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. Michele Birnbaum examines inter-racial bonds in fiction and literary correspondence by black and white authors and artists - including Elizabeth Keckley, Frances E. W. Harper, W. D. Howells, Grace King, Kate Chopin, Langston Hughes, Amy Spingarn and Carl Van Vechten - exploring the way servants and employers, doctors and patients, and patrons and artists negotiate their racial differences for artistic and political ends. Situating these relationships in literary and cultural context, Birnbaum argues that the literature reveals the complexity of cross-racial relations in the workplace, which, although often represented as an oasis of racial harmony, is in fact the very site where race politics are most fiercely engaged. This study productively complicates current debates about cross-racial collaboration in American literary and race studies, and will be of interest to scholars in both literary and cultural studies.

Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture Race, Work, and Desire in American Literature, 1860-1930 Press Reviews

Review of the hardback: '... a wide-ranging but meticulously argued series of essays that offer highly original and rewarding readings of canonical and less well-known works.' Modernism/Modernity Race, Work, and Desire in American Literature, 1860-1930 is a well-written, well-conceived analysis of texts and relationships that explore and critique the possibility of intimacy across the black-white color line. The intimacy that Birnbaum explores here, however, is not that, which occurs in the bedroom, except insofar as bedrooms are places of work for domestic servants. Rather Birnbaum is most interested in postbellum and early twentieth-century representations of intimacy that occur in the context of work or labor. Her goal here is to historicize interracial intimacy in order to reveal how even apparently ideal relations across the color line have never fully escaped their contexts of domination and subordination. Race, Work, and Desire stands as an important contribution to that growing body of scholarly work that is revising the history of American literary along the color line. Kenneth Warren, University of Chicago

Book Information

ISBN: 9780521120197
Publication date: 4th November 2009
Author: Michele (University of Puget Sound, Washington) Birnbaum
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Format: Paperback / softback
Pagination: 208 pages
Categories: Literary studies: c 1800 to c 1900 , Literary studies: from c 1900 -,

About Michele (University of Puget Sound, Washington) Birnbaum

Michele Elam (nee Birnbaum) is Martin Luther King, Jr Centennial Professor, Olivier Nomellini Family University Fellow in Undergraduate Education, Professor of English and Director of Curriculum at Stanford University, California. She is the author of The Souls of Mixed Folk: Race, Politics, and Aesthetics in the New Millennium (2011) and editor of The Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin (forthcoming, 2014). Chair of the Executive Committee for the Black Literatures and Culture Division of the Modern Language Association (2009-13), at Stanford University she has served as Director of the Program in African and African American Studies (2007-10) and Director of Undergraduate Studies in ...

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