19 Matching Annotations
  1. Feb 2018
    1. whether or not imitativeness was an epistemic quality rooted in race.

      vs. originality

    2. writing fiction, his income largely came first as a freelance legal stenographer and then as the owner of his own successful stenography practice

      His existence is thus seeped completely in writing and inscription!

    3. 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).

    4. 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

    5. 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.

    6. 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

    7. 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.

    8. 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.

    9. 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.

    10. 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.

    11. 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.

    12. 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.

    13. 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?

    14. 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.

    15. 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!

    16. 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.

    17. “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.

    18. 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.

    19. 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).