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African American Servitude and Historical Imaginings : Retrospective Fiction and Representation - M. Jordan

African American Servitude and Historical Imaginings

Retrospective Fiction and Representation

By: M. Jordan

Hardcover Published: 20th August 2004
ISBN: 9781403964977
Number Of Pages: 284

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In African-American Servitude & Historical Imaginings Margaret Jordan initiates a new way of looking at the African-American presence in American literature. Twentieth-century retrospective fiction is the site for this compelling investigation about how African-American servants and slaves have enormous utility as cultural artifacts, objects to be acted upon, agents in place, or agents provocateurs. Jordan argues that those who serve, even those seemingly innocuous, infrequently visible, or silent servants are vehicles through which history, culture and social values and practices are cultivated and perpetuated, challenged and destabilized.

Jordan demonstrates how African-American servants and servitude are strategically deployed and engaged in ways which encourage a rethinking of the past. She examines the ideological underpinnings of retrospective fiction by writers who are clearly social theorists and philosophers. Jordan contends that they do not read or misread history, they imagine history as meditations on social realties and reconstruct the past as a way to confront the present.

"As a historical legacy, and in the present, servitude remains an ideal macrocosm for examining the racial and class stratification that built this country. Margaret Jordan's brilliant analysis of fictional representations of servitude in the US reminds us of the extent to which the reproduction of the American family, community, and nation has been accomplished through racialized human interactions. Servitude continues today as racialized occupations built on the blood, sweat and tears of the working poor, many of whom are immigrants. African American Servitude and Historical Imaginings challenges current scholarship on the commodification of care work and material consumption that rely solely on gendered metaphors for serving and being served. Without understanding the legacy of Black servitude as America's racialized past, we cannot begin to illuminate the significance that race continues to play in our daily lives and most intimate spaces." - Mary Romero, author of Maid in USA

"In African American Servitude Dr. Jordan shines clear light on the inclination of some writers to project and sustain damaging stereotypes. We see the all too familiar happy mammy, the wanton Jezebel, the ne'er-do-well lazy Willie shuckin' and jivin', the dangerous brute. We see resistance to accounting for and reckoning with the mothers, lovers, citizens, fathers, and builders living in full color beneath those encrusted, enforced, fradulent false faces masked by servitude. But Dr. Jordan also powerfully reveals that in the hands of some writers, such as Doctorow and Morrison, these 'dumb' not-quite-'people' turn out to be landmines for the national psyche. Beyond the book pages, and the writers' imaginings, we are forced to consider a society in denial." - Ron Milner, author of Who's Got His Own and What the Wine Sellers Buy

Acknowledgementsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Introductionp. 1
Imagining the Pastp. 1
Stepping Back in Time: A Philosophy of Compositionp. 1
To Excavate the Pastp. 7
Social Issues, Then and Nowp. 11
The African American Servant: Cultural Artifact and Agent in Placep. 18
The Shame of Servitude: Stigma and Statusp. 19
Serving the Text: Elaborating Perceptions of Differencep. 23
What Made Amantha Lean?: Racial Fanaticism in the 1950s and the Rationalization of Slavery in Robert Penn Warren's Band of Angelsp. 29
Legacies of the Pastp. 29
Unraveling Point of Viewp. 41
Shared Complicity: Guilt and Denial of Causalityp. 46
Black Inferiority: Fitness for Servitudep. 52
Paternalism and the "Good" Masterp. 87
"An innocent victim of a cosmic conspiracy"p. 98
A Washerwoman Wreaks Havoc: Moral Reckoning and the "National Soul" in E. L. Doctorow's Ragtimep. 107
Writing in the Historical Blanksp. 107
A Washerwoman in the Ointmentp. 114
Explicating the Historical Moment: Social Context and Black Servitudep. 136
Coalhouse Walker, Jr.: The Inscrutable Non-Servantp. 141
Creating a Constituency: Liberal Humanism and Ragtimep. 147
"Evolve or Die": Rewriting "the Disfiguring Hand of Servitude" in Charles Johnson's Middle Passagep. 151
Countermanding "the overly discussed victimization of black people": A Philosophy of Compositionp. 151
Selective Culpability: Benign Diversity in a Slaving Societyp. 166
"Evolve or Die": Rewriting Identity and the Social Contractp. 172
Moral Evolution through Constructive Servitudep. 186
Elegy for a Dream: Toni Morrison's Song of Solomonp. 195
"My mode of writing is sublimely didactic"p. 195
Pullman Porter, Revolutionaryp. 199
Black Social Stratification and Servitudep. 208
Slave, Servant, Timeless Adjudicatorp. 218
Voluntary Servitudep. 221
Black Servitude and Victimizationp. 226
Epiloguep. 231
Notesp. 235
Works Citedp. 265
Indexp. 279
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9781403964977
ISBN-10: 1403964971
Audience: Professional
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 284
Published: 20th August 2004
Publisher: Palgrave USA
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 22.9 x 15.2  x 2.54
Weight (kg): 0.59
Edition Number: 1