Ethnic Ventriloquism

Literary Minstrelsy in Nineteenth-Century American Literature

1. Edition, 2008
312 Pages

ISBN: 978-3-8253-5436-7
Product: Book
Edition: Hardcover
Subject: Anglistik/Amerikanistik
Series: American Studies – A Monograph Series, Volume No.: 159
Available: 25.01.2008

Keywords: Poe, Edgar Allan, Chopin, Kate, Beecher Stowe, Harriet, Hawthorne, Nathaniel, Melville, Herman, Cooper, James Fenimore, Migration, Ethnologie, amerikanische Literatur

To read the foundational texts of the American Renaissance as well as other canonical nineteenth-century texts as instances of "literary minstrelsy" may at first seem counterintuitive not only in the apparent confounding of popular and literary cultures, but also in the relative significance such a reading would accord to the ethnic difference portrayed in these narratives. Yet, such a reversal of perspective is precisely what this book suggests. Are the strolling Indian in Thoreau's Walden, the Native physician in The Scarlet Letter, or the unkempt Mexican girl in Kate Chopin's The Awakening, really only incidental to these literary narratives? Proposing the concept of "ethnic ventriloquism," this study argues that the commitment of nineteenth-century America to democratic self-renewal may be much more indebted to ethnic sources than it would at first appear. America's pledge to democracy may in fact be an instance of a white subject speaking in an ethnic voice, a literary instance of brownface, redface, yellowface, or blackface. The aim of this re-reading of nineteenth-century American literature is to recover the referent of such ethnic ventriloquism, to imagine the moment where the "real" owner of the ethnic voice appears alongside the white ventriloquist to contemplate the logic of national self-definition of which he may not only be the source, but – in a reversal of roles between ventriloquist and ventriloquist's dummy – the mastermind.

Kerstin Schmidt in: Amerikastudien / American Studies, 56, 1 (2011), 143f

in: American Literature, vol. 81, June 2009, 3

Jörg Thomas Richter in: Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Vol. 57.4 (2009), 422ff

Thomas Austenfeld in: American Literary Scholarship, 2008, 477f