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Writing ReconstructionRace, Gender, and Citizenship in the Postwar South$
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Sharon D. Kennedy-Nolle

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781469621074

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469621074.001.0001

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Iowa’s American Gothic in Arkansas

Iowa’s American Gothic in Arkansas

The Plantation Fiction of Octave Thanet

(p.230) Chapter 5 Iowa’s American Gothic in Arkansas
Writing Reconstruction

Sharon D. Kennedy-Nolle

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter turns to the novels of Alice French, who wrote under the pen name of Octave Thanet. Her works serve as a reflection of her experience living in Military District Four. Thanet’s writing fashioned a vision of postwar national unity, one that was complex and wrought with gendered and racial contradictions. A central component of her vision focused on the former slaves’ place in the postwar nation. The chapter highlights Thane’s Expiation (1890), where she relied on a restructuring and expansion of gendered roles behind three principal strategies. First, she attempted to invert the gendered power dynamics of the plantation household to benefit black women. Second, she crafted numerous scenarios in which black women challenge authority through verbal assault via the use of “black talk.” Lastly, recognizing the difficulty ex-slaves faced in buying land, Thanet celebrated opportunities for them to own other assets, eventually recognizing their citizenship rights.

Keywords:   Alice French, Octave Thanet, Military District Four, postwar national unity, racial contradiction, Expiation, plantation household, black women, black talk, citizenship rights

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