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Grant number like: FT-59680-12

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Mary Elene Wood
University of Oregon (Eugene, OR 97403-5219)

Summer Stipends
Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2012 – 8/31/2012

African American Modernism and the New Psychiatry

This book project will examine fiction by four African American writers from 1880 to 1929 who engage with and counter psychiatric theories that claim madness is more natural to blacks than to whites. In the literary works of W.E.B. DuBois, Charles Chesnutt, Jean Toomer, and Nella Larsen, madness overcomes characters whose very silence and incoherence represent not innate mental infirmity but the suppression of past experience. These moments of incoherence signal a distinct modernism, in which the reader is led through holes in narrative to depart from realist fiction in search of the historical actualities of racial injustice. For the summer grant, I will write the chapter on Nella Larsen's fiction, in which biracial female characters represent not the distressed tragic mulatta identified by Larsen's critics but the modern African-American woman living with and despite the legacies of racism and slavery.