Failed Knights and Broken Narratives: Mark Twain and Charles Chesnutt’s Black Romance

  • Matthew X. Vernon
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


This chapter resumes the set of questions provoked in the second chapter about using the past as a political tool to intervene into the construction of race and ethnicity. Vernon puts into conversation Mark Twain and Charles Chesnutt, who use the novels A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The House behind the Cedars to escape and critique the authorial shadow of Walter Scott. Chesnutt and Twain take pains to show how flimsy the mythology underpinning Scott’s work is. Both authors recognize the power of Scott’s myth-making to penetrate the sphere of social reality by offering an attractive mythical history consonant with the desires of some Americans for a pure lineage. Chesnutt and Twain critically engage and supersede Scott’s legacy by addressing the fundamental appeal of his work; that is, its claims to provide a fictional heritage for its readers.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew X. Vernon
    • 1
  1. 1.University of California, DavisDavisUSA

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