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The War on WordsSlavery, Race, and Free Speech in American Literature$
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Michael T. Gilmore

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780226294131

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226294155.001.0001

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Tourgée: Margin and Center

Tourgée: Margin and Center

(p.199) Tourgée: Margin and Center
The War on Words

Michael T. Gilmore

University of Chicago Press

This chapter reviews Albion W. Tourgée publications, particularly his A Fool's Errand and Bricks without Straw, the themes of his novels had few admitted followers among mainstream authors. Although his admirers would hesitate to put him in the first tier of authors; he published A Fool's Errand to protest Reconstruction's betrayal, and this had neither the staying power nor the influence of Emerson's pamphlet. W. E. B. Du Bois said of him that he may have been a beacon of racial enlightenment, but as a literary figure, he was never anything but marginal. In fact, Tourgée embraced marginality, criticizing the regnant realist aesthetic for dwelling on minutiae and asserting that only the romantic imagination could do justice to America's racial trauma. Some literary historians would add to this that Tourgée's challenges to late nineteenth-century ideological pacification inspired practically nothing. His two best sellers explicitly conceptualize the clash between North and South as a battle over language, and in this respect he belongs at the very heart of his era, though worlds removed from better-known contemporaries in his directness.

Keywords:   Albion W. Tourgée, A Fool's Errand, Bricks without Straw, Reconstruction, betrayal, Emerson, nineteenth-century

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