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Posts Tagged ‘Chaotic Justice’

Review of John Ernest’s Chaotic Justice (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009)

In American History, Arts & Letters, Book Reviews, Dred Scott, Jurisprudence, Law-and-Literature, Legal Education & Pedagogy, Literary Theory & Criticism on July 7, 2010 at 2:30 pm

 

John Ernest, Eberly Distinguished Professor of American Literature at West Virginia University, has written a new book, Chaotic Justice, that should appeal to lawyers and law professors alike.  Ernest’s project began with basic research on Frances E. W. Harper’s Iola Leroy (1892), but over time Ernest realized that, in his words, “I did not know nearly enough about the literary and cultural history on which, according to my doctorate and professional experience, I was supposed to be an expert.”  Ernest found himself “increasingly convinced that we cannot appreciate American literary and cultural history without a deep understanding of nineteenth-century African American literature,” so he set out to gain that understanding and to convey his findings to a wide audience.  Some of the articles he published along the way—in such journals as PMLA, African American Review, American Literature, and Arizona Quarterly—appear in the book, albeit in slightly different form.   

Examining a vast network of authors who shaped the African American literary corpus, Ernest, a critical race theorist, has strong words for those who teach histories and theories about race as a nod toward idealized multiculturalism.  “Too often,” he says, “social progress relating to race is considered to be an approach toward an imagined horizon by which either the color line gradually disappears or an imagined multiculturalist ideal emerges—an escape, in effect, from a social world largely constructed by and long devoted to racial theories and racist practices.”  More harm than good, in other words, will come of a curriculum that celebrates a quixotic post-racial future while overlooking—or, worse, generalizing—about America’s fraught history of racism.      Read the rest of this entry »

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