The “Curious Realism” of Charles W. Chesnutt

Henry B. Wonham

in Playing the Races

Published in print April 2004 | ISBN: 9780195161946
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199788101 | DOI:
 The “Curious Realism” of Charles W. Chesnutt

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This chapter examines Charles Chesnutt's early sketches in Puck, theorizing that the magazine's insensitive treatment of every imaginable ethnic group or identity provided an important laboratory for Chesnutt's apprenticeship in the art of ethnic caricature. Focusing on the radical juxtapositions of ethnic imagery throughout Puck's printed pages, this chapter suggests that Chesnutt's art is uniquely suited to the era's fascination with ethnic typology. Nevertheless, the chapter argues that the use of ethnic caricature by a writer of color produced its own forms of ambivalence.

Keywords: Puck; illustration; racism; representation; ethnicity; ethnic literature; stereotype

Chapter.  7735 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literature

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