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Charles Waddell Chesnutt: Criticism and Reviews

The Internet Public Library features links to online criticism about the works of Charles Waddell Chesnutt.

Additional criticism and review of Charles Waddell Chesnutt's works can be found at your local public library.

The following reviews can be accessed online only by an individual who has a current library card through this address.

"'The Goophered Grapevines': Overview."
Critic: Craig Hansen Werner.
Reference Guide to Short Fiction, 1st ed., edited by Noelle Watson, St. James Press, 1994.

"Chesnutt's story 'The Goophered Grapevine' is a complex response to the difficult situation of African-American writers at the beginning of the 20th century. It adapts the folk practice of 'masking' to counteract the racial stereotypes held by its predominantly white audience…"

"'The Wife of His Youth': Overview."
Critic: Charles Duncan.
Reference Guide to Short Fiction, 1st ed., edited by Noelle Watson, St. James Press, 1994.

"By the time 'The Wife of His Youth' appeared in the Atlantic Monthly (July 1898), Charles Waddell Chesnutt had already accumulated more than 30 publications, including three previous short stories in the Atlantic Monthly…"

"The Absent Man: The Narrative Craft of Charles W. Chesnutt."
Review by Henry B. Wonham.
African American Review, Fall 2001 v35 i3 p487.

"The appearance of Charles Duncan's 'The Absent Man: The Narrative Craft of Charles W. Chesnutt' marks a pivotal moment in the evolution of Chesnutt studies. Indeed, the dust jacket of this handsome volume does not exaggerate when it identifies Duncan's work as 'the first book-length study of the impact of Charles Chesnutt's sophisticated, innovative narrative,' and if recent critical trends persist…"

"Charles Waddell Chesnutt: Overview."
Critic: Sylvia Lyons Render.
Reference Guide to American Literature, 3rd ed., edited by Jim Kamp, St. James Press, 1994.

"Charles Waddell Chesnutt, a 'voluntary Negro,' reflects in his writings major inter- and intraracial tensions of the 19th-century United States. Beginning and ending his life in Cleveland, Ohio, and from age seven to 25 living in North Carolina, he found the major motivations and materials of his works in his own life and that of…"

"Novel Notes: The Wife of His Youth."
Critic: Nancy Huston Banks.
The Bookman, New York Vol. X, No. 6, February, 1900, pp. 597-98.

"(To Mr. Chesnutt) may perhaps be given the credit of the first publication of a subtle psychological study of the Negro's spiritual nature, the first actual revelation of those secret depths of the dusky soul which no white writer might hope to approach through his own intuition…"

"Novel Notes: The Conjure Woman."
Critic: Florence A.H. Morgan.
The Bookman, New York Company, Vol. IX, No. 3, May, 1899, pp. 372-73.

"The keynote of the (seven stories in The Conjure Woman) is the blind superstition and duplicity of character fostered by the life of servility and cringing to the master. These stories stand out as an impartial picture of the life of the slave in the Southern States…"

"Mr. Charles W. Chesnutt's Stories."
Critic: W. D. Howells.
The Atlantic Monthly (copyright © 1900, by The Atlantic Monthly Company, Boston, Mass.), Vol. 85, No. 511, May, 1900, pp. 699-701. Reprinted in Twentieth-Century Literature Criticism, Vol. 5

"The critical reader of the story called 'The Wife of his Youth' ... must have noticed uncommon traits in what was altogether a remarkable piece of work…"

"Critical Essay on 'The Sheriff's Children.'"
Critic: Rena Korb.
Short Stories for Students, Vol. 11, The Gale Group, 2001.

"In 1880, while he was still working as a schoolteacher in North Carolina, Charles W. Chesnutt wrote in his journal, 'The object of my writing would not be so much the elevation of the colored people as the elevation of the whites -- for I consider the unjust spirit of caste that is so insidious as to pervade a whole nation, and so powerful as to subject a whole race and all connected with it to scorn and social ostracism…"

"Part 3: The Critics."
Critic: Eric J. Sundquist.
Charles W. Chesnutt, A Study of the Short Fiction, pp. 135-42. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998.

"Although they are related to animal trickster tales and to other story paradigms such as the Master-John cycle, conjure tales were constituted, for Chesnutt, by a relatively distinct body of imaginative structures that were at once more amenable to narrative transfiguration and more precisely traceable to the ancestry of slave culture…"

"Part 1: The Short Fiction."
Critic: Henry B. Wonham.
Charles W. Chesnutt: A Study of the Short Fiction, pp. 3-80. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998.

In his essay, "Wonham details Chesnutt's literary career and the author's dialect and non-dialect short stories."

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