"Anchored in Time": The U.S. South as a "Place" of Gendered Racial Memory in Ernest J. Gaines's Fiction Open Access

Baker, Chante (2010)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/bv73c074w?locale=en
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Abstract

Drawing upon discourses emerging from literary studies, gender studies, and
American historiography, this dissertation examines the ways in which Ernest J. Gaines
situates black men's particular memories of and experiences in the U.S. South as
important to their formation of a gendered racial consciousness. Focusing on his 1964
novel, Catherine Carmier, chapter one analyzes how Gaines uses the gendered racial
memories of the Carmier family patriarch, Raoul, to dramatize how black Creoles' claims
to exclusivity were challenged by demands for group solidarity in 1960s America. Gaines
also uses the memories and experiences of other Carmier family members to
problematize the idea that issues of blood and southern history are exclusively limiting to
one's racial consciousness. Chapter two explores In My Father's House (1978) as a
critique of the ideological tensions that existed during the civil rights and black power
eras, especially the effectiveness of interracial coalition building and non-violence, and
the utility of black militancy as a defense strategy. Interactions between several male
characters in the novel illustrate the impact of these debates on constructions of southern
black manhood and on African American men's interpersonal relationships. Recognizing
Gaines's continued exploration of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements in A
Gathering of Old Men
(1983), chapter three contends that black men's particular
memories of their southern experiences inspire them to redefine the ideological tenets of
both eras in redemptive, self-affirming ways. Chapter four consolidates the insights
gleaned from the previous chapters, culminating in a discussion of specific sites of
African American men's memory, instruction, and transformation within the "place" of
the U.S. South in A Lesson Before Dying (1993). Exploring gendered racial memory in
Gaines's work not only builds upon existing scholarship on his writings but also provides
a useful framework for further discussions of the complexities of black identity presented
in African American literature, in general, and in black men's fiction specifically.




Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Crossing the Mason-Dixon Line: Gendered Racial Memory of the U.S. South in African
American Literature…………………….…………………………………………………1

Chapter 1: "The House Was Haunted": Creole Identity and Gendered Racial Memory in
Catherine Carmier……………………….……………………………………………....20

Chapter 2: "A Black Man's Conference": Civil Rights, Black Power, and Black
Masculinity in In My Father's House………………………………...………………….66

Chapter 3: "A Day of Reckonding": The "Power" of Black Men's Memories in A
Gathering of Old Men…………...…………...…………………………………………115

Chapter 4: "How a (Black) Man Should Live": Southern "Places" of Memory, Instruction
and Transformation in A Lesson Before Dying………………….………..…………….160

Foundational Moments: Gendered Racial Memory in Black Men's Literature…..……207

Works Cited………………………………………………………………………….…213

Notes……………………………………………………………………………….…...226


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