Through a Glass, Darkly: Medievalism and Racial Inversion in The House Behind the Cedars and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court


Sep
19
2013

Add to Cal
  • Host Department: Comparative Literature
  • Date: 09/19/2013
  • Time: 04:00 PM - 06:00PM

  • Location: TBD

  • Description:

    Professor Vernon’s scholarship is uniquely situated between medieval studies and African American studies. His visit thus offers the unique opportunity to bridge those apparently disparate fields, to demonstrate to students in African American studies the ways in which literary texts from their field engage with medieval European texts, and to demonstrate to medievalist students some important but overlooked examples of medievalism. His research also bring a strongly diverse perspective to medieval studies, and one we are eager to feature at U-M through his visit.
    Professor Vernon’s abstract is reproduced below.

    Through a Glass, Darkly: Medievalism and Racial Inversion in The House Behind the Cedars and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

    This paper presents Charles Chesnutt and Mark Twain’s use of the tropes of medieval romance to articulate contradictions within late nineteenth-century racial discourse. The argument builds upon my previous historical work on African-American scholars and writers who incorporated medieval literature within university curricula and fiction in ways that helped fashion their conceptions of identity within the nation and as intellectuals amidst the larger movement of medieval revivalism. The present paper extends this earlier line of inquiry. It shows that the medieval texts undergirding The House Behind the Cedars and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court were not merely chosen to demonstrate a negligible distance between medieval and contemporary habits of thought. Rather, Chesnutt and Twain provide astute readings of medieval romance. They employ the genre’s constraints to pick apart nineteenth-century problems, and at the same time, question the racial coding that underpins the medieval revivalist movement.

    For more information please contact Karly Mitchell karlyjm@umich.edu

    Co-sponsored by the Department of English Languages and Literatures and Department of Comparative Literature