[If there’s one thing I think we all need as we begin this new year, it’s hope. So this week, I’ll AmericanStudy a handful of cultural works which offer stories and images of that vital emotion—share the texts or voices which give you hope for a hope-full crowd-sourced weekend post, please!]
I don’t think there’s any literary work that I’ve written about more frequently, here and elsewhere, than Charles Chesnutt’s novel The Marrow of Tradition (1901). One of my most recent such engagements was a Saturday Evening Post Considering History column for this past February’s Black History Month, on the novel’s embodiment of critical optimism (a parallel to the critical patriotism I write about in my next book, out next week!). That critical optimism, what I called “hard-won hope” in my book History & Hope in American Literature, is presented at the climax of a book that has portrayed some of the most horrific and destructive aspects of American history and identity, a climax when the possibility of a better future hangs on by the most fragile of threads. Chesnutt’s concluding line is “There’s time enough, but none to spare,” a sentiment that, like every aspect of his fraught, fragile, hard-won hope, feels here in January 2021 goddamn right (a bit of foreshadowing for tomorrow’s focal text).
Next hope-full text tomorrow,
PS. What do you think? Texts or voices which help you find hope?