Conjured Memories: Race, Place, and Cultural Memory in the American Conjure Tale, 1877-1905

Ingle, Sarah, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Lott, Eric, English

“Conjured Memories” seeks to explain the rise of the “conjure tale,” a hybrid narrative form combining elements of magical folklore, realism, regionalism, and Gothic fiction that achieved widespread popularity in post-Reconstruction America. I argue that, more than a source of “local color” and racial stereotypes, conjure functions as a discourse of power, perception, and mystification, exposing the rituals of cultural amnesia that shaped American national identity at the end of the nineteenth century. By tracing the figure of the conjurer through canonical and non-canonical texts by authors such as Frederick Douglass, William Wells Brown, Mark Twain, Charles Chesnutt, Joel Chandler Harris, Mary Alicia Owen, James Corrothers, and Pauline Hopkins, I show how black and white writers used the conjure tale to re-imagine the diasporic, transatlantic roots of the American Gothic tradition and to challenge the dominant post-bellum narratives of U.S. national identity.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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