Charles Duncan

 An associate professor of English at Peace College, Raleigh, North Carolina, Charles Duncan is the author of The Absent Man: The Narrative Craft of Charles W. Chesnutt and numerous articles on American literature. He received the Charles Waddell Chesnutt Association’s Sylvia Lyons Render Award for his work in Chesnutt studies.

Listed in: Fiction · African American Authors · African American Studies · American Literature · Literary Criticism · Ohio and Regional · Literary Studies

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The Absent Man · The Narrative Craft of Charles W. Chesnutt
By Charles Duncan

As the first African-American fiction writer to achieve a national reputation, Ohio native Charles W. Chesnutt (1858—1932) in many ways established the terms of the black literary tradition now exemplified by such writers as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Charles Johnson.

“Charles Duncan’s compelling and perceptive analysis of Chesnutt’s narrative genius will go a long way in resurrecting the reputation of a pioneering African-American writer whose work deserves more attention appreciate than it has received over the years.”

Robert C. Leitz, III, Literary Realism




The first African American fiction writer to earn a national reputation, Charles W. Chesnutt remains best known for his depictions of Southern life before and after the Civil War. But he also produced a large body of what might best be called his “Northern” writings, and those works, taken together, describe the intriguing ways in which America was reshaping itself at the turn of the last century.

“Recently, literary scholars have rediscovered Chesnutt’s graceful, ironic, and taut prose...and his works are assigned in many American literature courses. He teaches well: College students enjoy learning about Reconstruction, a fascinating and under-known period in American history, and reading Chesnutt’s subtle prose and still-pertinent treatments of American race relations.”

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