The Literature of Reconstruction: Not in Plain Black and White. By Brook Thomas. (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017. Pp. 378. Cloth, $40.00.) It is clear why Brook Thomas dedicates his extensive study of Recon- struction to his “best students and teachers”: they taught him well. In The Literature of Reconstruction, he has distilled the complexities of politi- cal will, constitutional law, and the imaginative expanse of the historical novel into a work of cultural synthesis that teaches us as much about the systemic failures of American racial integration after the Civil War as it does about period literature. In seven substantial chapters and a lengthy introduction, Thomas challenges readers to consider that a deeper under- standing of Reconstruction emerges by emphasizing the themes of race and inheritance, imperialism, and federal versus state sovereignty that cir- culate through postemancipation fiction instead of bickering about dates. Indeed, Thomas suggests, we would do better to think of Reconstruction as an era that spilled into the first decades of the twentieth century than as a chronology with a fixed terminus. The fourteen authors at the center of the study, including strange bedfellows such as Thomas Dixon, Charles Chesnutt, Constance Fenimore Woolson,
The Journal of the Civil War Era – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Aug 20, 2018
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