43 Matching Annotations
  1. Mar 2018
    1. He was not always so,

      Extraordinary moment when John actually considers deeply (for him) what kind of subjectivity Julius possesses. He reads Julius very crudely, but not in ways that elicit comedy: we see here the real gap between a subjectivity organized around white supremacy and the possibility of recognizing blackness in its otherness as part of "America" as Du Bois urges his readers to do.

    2. I went to execute the commission. When I pulled the handkerchief out of her pocket, something else came with it and fell on the floor. I picked up the object and looked at it. It was Julius’s rabbit’s foot.

      Maybe a bit corny, but the story does open enough space to imagine, not "local color" that's fun to dip into, but a more fundamental epistemological fissure, where we're not sure whether Enlightenment rationalism or "premodern" magic is the controlling factor. Allegorically this points to the issue of narrative authority: that Julius might be "master" of the narrative.

    3. “Aun’ Peggy look’ at de head-hankercher, en run her han’ ober it, en sez she:—

      The emphasis on gift exchange--Aunt Peggy never conjures for free--rhymes with the way Julius uses his tales to "buy" himself things from John/Annie, even if the latter don't always realize it.

    4. “Oh, yes,” she answered, “I forgot to tell you. He was hanging round the place all the morning, and looking so down in the mouth, that I told him that if he would try to do better, we would give him one more chance. He seems so grateful, and so really in earnest in his promises of amendment, that I’m sure you’ll not regret taking him back.”

      Annie as "sentimental" reader, once again!

    5. “I hope you didn’t let the old rascal have it,” I returned, with some warmth. I had just received a bill for the new lumber I had bought.

      What do you make of this recurrent twist? Is Julius just a hustler, or is there a game behind the game? How might readers have responded to these twists around 1900?

    6. W’en Mars Marrabo ‘skiver’ dat Sandy wuz gone, he ‘lowed Sandy had runned away

      Not to beat a dead horse, but note that selling slaves, breaking up families, and fugitive slaves are not staples of the tradition CC is writing in, to say the least!

    7. our colored coachman

      Important shift to "our" Julius. Also note that he has a job title!

  2. Feb 2018
    1. But somehow er ‘nudder de niggers foun’ out all erbout it, en dey all knowed de kitchen wuz ha’nted by Sandy’s sperrit. En bimeby hit got so Mars Marrabo’s wife herse’f wuz skeered ter go out in de yard atter dark.

      Sandy's spirit, which no one has seen, hasn't done anything, yet everyone is afraid of it.

    2. The pathetic intonation with which he lengthened out the “po’ Sandy” touched a responsive chord in our own hearts.

      There is a difference when speaking the English language.

    3. Some of these stories are quaintly humorous; others wildly extravagant, revealing the Oriental cast of the negro’s imagination; while others, poured freely into the sympathetic ear of a Northern-bred woman, disclose many a tragic incident of the darker side of slavery.

      Chessnutt seems to be using Gothic elements

    4. “W’en Tenie see so many things

      The perspective has changed from being primarily of Sandy to primarily of Tenie

    5. ‘I kin turn you ter a tree

      The tree becomes lumber, the lumber is still destroyed by an apparatus and put to work

    6. huge pine log was placed in position, the machinery of the mill was set in motion, and the circular saw began to eat its way through the log, with a loud whir which resounded throughout the vicinity of the mill. The sound rose and fell in a sort of rhythmic cadence, which, heard from where we sat, was not unpleasing, and not loud enough to prevent conversation

      Evokes Kafka's apparatus, comfort in machines, technology as an organic element/participant in their discourse

    7. lumber

      The word lumber has been used a significant number of times in the first few paragraphs, perhaps meant to signify a reference to American idea of 'building" things (literally and symbolically) and the idea of resourcefulness.

    8. I found, when I bought the vineyard, that Uncle Julius had occupied a cabin on the place for many years, and derived a respectable revenue from the product of the neglected grapevines. This, doubtless, accounted for his advice to me not to buy the vineyard, though whether it inspired the goopher story I am unable to state. I believe, however, that the wages I paid him for his services as coachman, for I gave him employment in that capacity, were more than an equivalent for anything he lost by the sale of the vineyard.

      Comedy of manners here, as the Yankee demystification of the "conjure" comes along with an engagement in the trickery that's such a big part of the story. As in the dominant plantation tradition, note of compromise between North/South (here, master/slave) that sutures together the historical wound of the War.

    9. “Nex’ spring, w’en de sap ris en Henry’s ha’r commence’ ter sprout, Mars Dugal’ sole ‘im ag’in, down in Robeson County dis time; en he kep’ dat sellin’ business up fer five year er mo’. Henry nebber say nuffin ’bout de goopher ter his noo marsters, ‘caze he know he gwine ter be tuk good keer uv de nex’ winter, w’en Mars Dugal’ buy him back. En Mars Dugal’ made ’nuff money off’n Henry ter buy anudder plantation ober on Beaver Crick.

      Complex set of interactions here: (super)natural role of the grapes/goopher, which align Henry with natural cycles; exploitation of abstract labor-power of capitalism (Henry is like a "cyclical" stock that rises/falls relatively predictably); question of how both master/slave are gaming the system for advantage, though obviously in asymmetrical ways.

    10. “Now it happen dat one er de niggers on de nex’ plantation, one er ole Mars Henry Brayboy’s niggers, had runned away de day befo’, en tuk ter de swamp, en ole Mars Dugal’ en some er de yuther nabor w’ite folks had gone out wid dere guns en dere dogs fer ter he’p ’em hunt fer de nigger; en de han’s on our own plantation wuz all so flusterated

      To put it mildly, references to fugitive slaves are unusual in the "moonlight and magnolias" tradition of "plantation fiction" that CC is writing into.

    11. Mars Dugal’ foun’ he had made fifteen hund’ed gallon er wine; en one er de niggers hearn him laffin’ wid de oberseah fit ter kill, en sayin’ dem fifteen hund’ed gallon er wine wuz monst’us good intrus’ on de ten dollars he laid out on de vimya’d.

      Note how Julius inserts a bit of "Yankee" calculation of ROI here, calibrated to appeal to the narrator.

    12. “Now, ef dey’s an’thing a nigger lub, nex’ ter ‘possum, en chick’n, en watermillyums, it’s scuppernon’s. Dey ain’ nuffin dat kin stan’ up side’n de scuppernon’ fer sweetness; sugar ain’t a suckumstance ter scuppernon’. W’en de season is nigh ’bout ober, en de grapes begin ter swivel up des a little wid de wrinkles er ole age,—w’en de skin git sof’ en brown,—den de scuppernon’ make you smack yo’ lip en roll yo’ eye en wush fer mo’; so I reckon it ain’ very ‘stonishin’ dat niggers lub scuppernon’.

      Julius/CC laying it on pretty thick here, eh? Hard to believe that reviewers criticized CC (as Sussman points out) for being a mere transcriber of reality!

    13. As he became more and more absorbed in the narrative, his eyes assumed a dreamy expression, and he seemed to lose sight of his auditors, and to be living over again in monologue his life on the old plantation.

      How are the temporalities of the "Yankee" auditors and the Southern teller different? Is there daylight between how the narrator interprets this difference and how we readers do? What does it mean that the narrator feels that Julius "lose(s) sight" of himself and his wife?

    14. “Lawd bless you, suh, I knows all about it. Dey ain’ na’er a man in dis settlement w’at won’ tell you ole Julius McAdoo ‘uz bawn en raise’ on dis yer same plantation. Is you de Norv’n gemman w’at’s gwine ter buy de ole vimya’d?”

      We'll talk a lot about the issue of the synthetic dialect via Sussman's work and ideas about "stenography" in the 19thC--that is, translating oral discourse "directly" into written form, as it were--but for now, note the strangeness of an African American writer employing this minstrel-tinged practice.

    15. He resumed his seat with somewhat of embarrassment. While he had been standing, I had observed that he was a tall man, and, though slightly bowed by the weight of years, apparently quite vigorous. He was not entirely black, and this fact, together with the quality of his hair, which was about six inches long and very bushy, except on the top of his head, where he was quite bald, suggested a slight strain of other than negro blood. There was a shrewdness in his eyes, too, which was not altogether African, and which, as we afterwards learned from experience, was indicative of a corresponding shrewdness in his character. He went on eating the grapes, but did not seem to enjoy himself quite so well as he had apparently done before he became aware of our presence.

      Who is Julius? What is the narrator's assessment? How might we revise this assessment, by the time we've read more deeply into the collection?

    16. “Don’t let us disturb you,” I said. “There is plenty of room for us all.”

      A resonant line: how does this gesture frame the entire narrative?

    17. We drove between a pair of decayed gateposts—the gate itself had long since disappeared—and up a straight sandy lane, between two lines of rotting rail fence, partly concealed by jimson-weeds and briers, to the open space where a dwelling-house had once stood, evidently a spacious mansion, if we might judge from the ruined chimneys that were still standing, and the brick pillars on which the sills rested. The house itself, we had been informed, had fallen a victim to the fortunes of war.

      How is the recent past "written" on the landscape, and how does the narrator "read" this text?

    18. though I learned later on that underneath its somnolent exterior the deeper currents of life—love and hatred, joy and despair, ambition and avarice, faith and friendship—flowed not less steadily than in livelier latitudes.

      Note that the year of publication--1899--comes some 20 years after the collapse of Reconstruction. In the interim: the Jim Crow system has been built, brick by brick, with Southern states creating new constitutions designed to (among other things) disfranchise African Americans; lynching has emerged as a form of extralegal discipline (roughly 1k/year in this time period, nationwide); and Plessy v Ferguson instantiates "separate but equal" in 1897, two years prior. So it's very much a matter of perspective that "things have become somewhat settled" in the South...

    19. I was engaged at the time in grape-culture in northern Ohio, and, as I liked the business and had given it much study, I decided to look for some other locality suitable for carrying it on.

      Who is the narrator? What "lenses" does he use to view the world around him? What is his frame of reference?

    1. The manufactured authenticity of his dialect writing suggests that, while it may be informed by the same ear for speech that made him a successful stenographer, it did not conform to any original speech act; while there may be no speaking subject whose voice Chesnutt “transcribes” in his fiction, he nevertheless captures and encodes an image of American Blackness that he did not possess but could represent to white audiences who thought it authentic.

      Yeah: a painstaking imitation of an imitation (or really synthesis).

    2. English pronounced as an ignorant old Southern Negro would be supposed to speak it, and at the same time to preserve a sufficient approximation to the correct spelling to make it easy reading. (“ To ” 105)

      Sophisticated claim by CC about the accomodation of the "phonographic" speech to the norms of written language and the frame of reference of the reading public

    3. All writing, but especially one fraught with the political necessity of fidelity to experience that Chesnutt saw in realism, is always already stenographic in nature. 11

      The footnote points to Derrida on "Freud's mystic writing pad": useful point of reference in linking technologies to "deep," "inner" processes.

    4. In other words, Kealing worries that the demands of the market are turning students into mere writing machines and leaving them without the “basal culture” that will allow them to understand and interpret what they type—they will become a generation of amanuenses, vessels for knowledge and culture without the tools to recognize the richness of the language and history passing through their fingertips and unable to recognize error when they encounter it.

      Ahh: structural determinants in ed system of the "natural" mimicry and lack of imagination of blacks

    5. If what makes a good realist is a facility for mimetic representation—that is, imitation—what makes a “bad” or at least minor realist is a facility for mimicking the facility for mimetic representation. The former mimesis takes place as a kind of translation of the world into the linguistic codes of realistic representation while the latter is portrayed as a knowledge of only linguistic codes. 9

      Pithy restatement of above point.

    6. What seems bizarre about Simmons’s analysis, although also correct, is that Chesnutt is damned to the status of imitator both by those who want to include him in the realist camp and those who do not.

      Wow: CC is read only as successful or unsuccessful imitator of "real" realists by critics such as McElrath or Simmons.

    7. I am not arguing that The Conjure Woman stories are “more realist” than they are usually given credit for but that the orthographic fidelity they simulate locates the “real” of the literary text in a material register (grammar, spelling, and syntax) rather than the conceptual register (the assumed relation of a fictional narrative to the reality it purports to reproduce).

      Displacement of "real"/"realism" from theme to form, to the phonographic representation of black speech.

    8. The rejection of “Rena Walden” may have suggested to Chesnutt that an editor such as Gilder, who was sympathetic to realist literature, was not so interested in the phrase and carriage of everyday life if the days and lives described bore no relation to his or his readers’ own.

      Important point that perhaps doesn't come through strongly enough: that realism depends upon a bourgeois POV, that its readers construct its reality as much as its authors.

    9. The very ways in which we find Chesnutt, in his day and ours, excluded from the realist canon suggests that the limits of the genre have more to do with the relationship between racial politics and epistemic difference than they do with the mimetic fidelity of descriptive language

      Ahh: provocative point that we still use the logic of racial mimicry to construct literary realism on some level.

    10. The reader is left to infer that an essentially “imitative” people in a cultural arrangement that actually encourages the dangerous imitation of unsuitably civilized morals and norms is in a tough spot indeed. 6

      This basic claim that imitativeness, the dangerous supplement that threatens originality, is itself original/natural to blacks, is kind of hilarious.

    11. Consequently, Jim Crow became not only a legal regime but a mode of thinking that haunted the postbellum nineteenth century’s imagination, one that persists to this day

      Broader claim: Jim Crow as "mode of thinking" rather than mere legal structure. But is this so surprising? Don't all legal regimes depend on "modes of thinking" to endure?

    12. Distinctions between mimesis, realism, and imitation may at first seem too fine to merit consideration, but their very ability to substitute for each other occasioned not exactly definitional confusion between them but the terms of access through which the logic of racial politics could come to resemble those of literary politics, through which the Howellsian trope of fidelity could also become a prized form of technological functionality.

      Keywords for Ss analysis: mimesis, realism, imitation. Cognate but subtly different terms in contrast.

    13. Yet the suggestion that, through the manipulation of orthographic convention or a narrative verisimilitude inspired by Chesnutt’s own experiences with the color line, fiction might hew too close to transcription automatically ejects the work from the aesthetic realm and into that of reportage, from art to “just telling things.”

      Fascinating that dialect fiction was critiqued along the same lines as documentary art!

    14. His exploitation of the “transcribed” feeling of dialect writing, the sense that it was drawn from a present and actually experienced scene of speaking, suggests that subversive political energies lay dormant in instrumentally transcriptive writing practices such as stenography.

      Tricky pivot to argue that dialect and steno are parallel processes, and that the written "copy" of speech contains a latent subversiveness.

    15. “The Goophered Grapevine” suggests, both in the linguistic codes and the plot elements it deploys, that misdirection, subterfuge, and epistemic legerdemain subtend the aura of simplistic straight talk implied by the use of dialect.

      So dialect is not a deficit--a failed attempt to speak "correctly"--but a skillful manipulation of linguistic codes to write one's ticket, as it were.

    16. Dialect fiction, an ostensibly mimetic writing form that portrays human speech as the locus of racial authenticity, ironically materializes and substantializes what Chesnutt elsewhere strove to demonstrate was insubstantial. For Chesnutt, then, writing was the sole arena in which the paradoxes of race thinking could take shape; to write race was, in some sense, and perhaps only for Chesnutt, to literally bring race into being.

      Nice move: S points out the proto-Butlerian judo move CC pulls on race discourse in C19. Racists say that to be black is to mimic, copy, reiterate; CC replies that all race is a fiction enacted by performative repetition and proves it via his fiction, which thematizes "phonography" as writing down speech.

    17. The connection of writing to stenography and stenography to writing, far from being limited to the singular professional development of Chesnutt (the first major black American novelist), reflects some of the shared anxieties and contradictions of the racial and literary imaginations of the nineteenth century. Stenography, as a writing system that claims to record and preserve the inflections of human speech, and literary realism, a form of writing that claims to register the vicissitudes of human experience, both participate in a form of mimesis that was, by the end of the nineteenth century, the primary site of critical discord surrounding American fiction.

      Thesis, one that plugs into Gittleman's argument about the Edison era. Note the fact that CC supported self via a) freelance steno; b) fiction writing; and c) own steno business (following Gittelman, seems like steno was a means of building a multivalent business platform in C19).