One of the best known and most widely read of early African American writers, Charles W. Chesnutt published more than fifty short stories, six novels, two plays, a biography of Frederick Douglass, and countless essays, poems, letters, journals, and speeches. Though he had light skin and was of mixed race, Chesnutt self-identified as a black man, and his writing was often boldly political, openly addressing problems of racial identity and injustice in the late 19th century.
This collection of critical essays reevaluates the Chesnutt legacy, introducing new scholarship reflective of the many facets of his fiction, especially his sophisticated narrative strategies.
Maria Orban — Maria Orban is an assistant professor of English at Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
David Garrett Izzo — David Garrett Izzo is an emeritus professor of English who has published 16 books and 60 essays of literary scholarship, as well as three novels and two plays. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.
Charles Chesnutt reappraised: essays on the first major African American fiction writer, ed. by David Garrett Izzo and Maria Orban. McFarland, 2009. 230p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780786441112 pbk. Reviewed in 2009sep CHOICE.
A decade ago, Joseph McElrath published his edited collection Critical Essays on Charles Chesnutt (1999), hailing it as "the most comprehensive gathering of essays ever published on one of the most important African American writers of the period of American realism." Indeed, the volume did include materials dating back as far as 1899. Now comes a "reappraisal" of Chesnutt, a collection comprising 15 essays and an epilogue that is a product of the current Zeitgeist. Izzo and Orban write that the volume "reevaluates the Chesnutt legacy from the perspective of the 20th century." Certainly Chesnutt was preoccupied with the nexus of culture and race in his works, and thus this collection, which "introduc[es] new scholarship reflective of the very facets of his fiction, his sophisticated narrative strategies, and the dominant themes and particular political and social issues raised by his construction of race" is a significant contribution to Chesnutt scholarship.
Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. -- R. A. Bess, Morris College