Genre and White Supremacy in the Postemancipation United States

ISBN : 9780198838098

Travis M. Foster
176 Pages
156 x 156 mm
Pub date
Nov 2019
Oxford Studies in American Literary History
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How are we to comprehend, diagnose, and counter a system of racist subjugation so ordinary it has become utterly asymptomatic? Challenging the prevailing literary critical inclination toward what makes texts exceptional or distinctive, Genre and White Supremacy in the Postemancipation United States underscores the urgent importance of genre for tracking conventionality as it enters into, constitutes, and reproduces ordinary life. In the wake of emancipation's failed promise, two developments unfolded: white supremacy amassed new mechanisms and procedures for reproducing racial hierarchy; and black freedom developed new practices for collective expression and experimentation. This new racial ordinary came into being through new literary and cultural genres-including campus novels, the Ladies' Home Journal, Civil War elegies, and gospel sermons. Through the postemancipation interplay between aesthetic conventions and social norms, genre became a major influence in how Americans understood their social and political affiliations, their citizenship, and their race. Travis M. Foster traces this thick history through four decades following the Civil War, equipping us to understand ordinary practices of resistance more fully and to resist ordinary procedures of subjugation more effectively. In the process, he provides a model for how the study of popular genre can reinvigorate our methods for historicizing the everyday.


Introduction: Genres of the New Racial Ordinary
1 Campus Novels, Camaraderie, and White Nationalist Merriment
2 The Ladies Home Journal, Sororal Publics, and the Wages of White Womanhood
3 Elegies, White Dissent, and the Civil War Dead
4 Gospel Sermons, Christian Fellowship, and the Conventions of Freedom

About the author: 

Travis M. Foster is an Associate Professor of English and the Academic Director of Women's and Gender Studies at Villanova University.

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