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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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Dixon and the Rebirth of Discursive Power

Dixon and the Rebirth of Discursive Power

(p.270) Dixon and the Rebirth of Discursive Power
The War on Words

Michael T. Gilmore

University of Chicago Press

This chapter reviews Thomas Dixon's defense of lynching that makes the wresting of literary efficacy from its historic possessors a self-conscious theme in his work. Dixon co-opts the two staples of abolitionist rhetoric, the Protestant Bible and Jefferson's Declaration, for the cause of white “redemption.” In The Leopard's Spots (1902), the first volume of his Reconstruction trilogy, the Invisible Empire of the KKK is a prefiguration of the millennial reign on earth. By staging the vocal as a decisive arena of Reconstruction conflict, Dixon's romances follow the lead of A Fool's Errand. Preacher turned novelist turned playwright turned screenwriter, Dixon seeks to overthrow the egalitarian narrative by seizing and transferring its agency in history to the longtime victims of its falsehoods, the white men and women of Dixie. In his account, the most fanatical elements in the North have held the rhetorical upper hand for half a century, from the abolitionists to the Republican architects of racial equality.

Keywords:   Thomas Dixon, lynching, abolitionist, The Leopard's Spots, Reconstruction trilogy, falsehood, racial equality

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