A mirror for the republic : mimesis, racial justice, and American literary realism.


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The following study examines the degree to which the American Literary realist movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century worked to undermine the racial stereotypes that justified the continued marginalization of African Americans. Using Plato and Aristotle’s theory of mimesis, I argue that both black and white writers manipulated audience expectations and prejudices in order to challenge their racist misconceptions. Twain, Chesnutt, Dunbar, and Crane, the writers in this study, used recognizable patterns and historical events that their audience would recognize only to upturn those patterns at emotionally key moments. By creating an emotional connection with the character writers could create a rhetorical space through which they could argue for a new understanding of black people.



American literary realism. Mimesis. Mark Twain. Paul Dunbar. Stephen Crane. Charles Chessnutt.