Black Atlas

Geography and Flow in Nineteenth-Century African American Literature

Black Atlas

Book Pages: 312 Illustrations: 12 illustrations Published: January 2015

Author: Judith Madera

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

Black Atlas presents definitive new approaches to black geography. It focuses attention on the dynamic relationship between place and African American literature during the long nineteenth century, a volatile epoch of national expansion that gave rise to the Civil War, Reconstruction, pan-Americanism, and the black novel. Judith Madera argues that spatial reconfiguration was a critical concern for the era's black writers, and she also demonstrates how the possibility for new modes of representation could be found in the radical redistricting of space. Madera reveals how crucial geography was to the genre-bending works of writers such as William Wells Brown, Martin Delany, James Beckwourth, Pauline Hopkins, Charles Chesnutt, and Alice Dunbar-Nelson. These authors intervened in major nineteenth-century debates about free soil, regional production, Indian deterritorialization, internal diasporas, pan–American expansionism, and hemispheric circuitry. Black geographies stood in for what was at stake in negotiating a shared world.


" illuminating study of place and place-making."  — James S. Finley, Transfers

"Simply put: Black Atlas flows. It is not narratively or conceptually simplistic—far from it ... Madera conducts readers through fluid valences of locale, terrain at once domestic, international, human, and economic." — Regis M. Fox, Studies in the Novel

"Black Atlas provides a series of inspiring new approaches to earlier African American literature while demonstrating the diverse interpretive possibilities available through a geographically attuned literary criticism." — Martha Schoolman, Journal of American History

"Making a compelling case for geography as flow (as well as geography and flow) in this examination of African American contributions to literature, Madera provides new insights into the complexities of 'place' that apply to any consideration of the relation between humans and their environments. Highly recommended." — S. Petersheim, Choice

" is worth saying that this book on African American literary geographies is also a superb guide to recent work on nationalism, transnationalism, geography, and social space. Madera has read widely in critical theory, and she works with and against the best theoretical writers on the key topics of her study to develop exciting new interpretive perspectives." — Robert S. Levine, Modern Philology

"Madera’s book illuminates numerous fascinating literary histories that would on their own make Black Atlas a treasure. But she does far more, which is to incisively theorize the relationship between the spatial imagination and literature. Her introduction is a stunning primer on key debates about geography that cuts across the fields of philosophy, literature, and cultural studies; it is essential reading for any literary scholar interested in place and space." — Mary Caton Lingold, American Literature

"Judith Madera’s Black Atlas: Geography and Flow in Nineteenth-Century African American Literature makes an exciting contribution to the nexus of literary studies and critical geography by showing how literature 'serves as an important vehicle for . . . understanding the operations of place as creative strategies for living' and how we might use 'process geography' to help open 'the terms of analysis for the study of place in literature.'" — Eric Gardner, MELUS

"In Black Atlas Judith Madera shows how the shifting territory comprising the nation and the even more fluid relation of African Americans to that evolving terrain enabled the writing of such key figures such as Martin Delany, William Wells Brown, and Pauline Hopkins. In so doing, Madera provides an important contribution to African American literary criticism; the expanding corpus of material focused on territoriality, transnationalism, and empire; and our understanding of the rise of the novel in the Americas." — Caroline Levander, author of Where is American Literature?

"Where other scholars have adopted hemispheric or black Atlantic approaches to the works of nineteenth-century African American writers, Judith Madera develops an intranational framework. She aims to 'deconstruct national terrain,' and her success in doing so is what makes her discussion of space and geography in relation to black literature so distinctive. Arguing that 'black literary citizenship emerges in relation to boundaries,' Madera makes a bold and original contribution to our understanding of African American literature." — Michelle Stephens, author of Skin Acts: Race, Psychoanalysis, and the Black Male Performer

"What an ambitious and challenging project Judith Madera has constructed! Black Atlas offers a brilliant theoretical template, imaginatively and intellectually stunning. This book is just what the world of literary and cultural concerns needs as a tonic re-placement and re-imagining." — Houston A. Baker, Jr., author of Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature: A Vernacular Theory


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Judith Madera is Associate Professor of English and Environmental Studies at Wake Forest University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii

Introduction. On Meaningful Worlds  1

1. National Geographic: The Writtings of William Wells Brown  24

2. Indigenes of Territory: Martin Delany and James Beckwourth  69

3. This House of Gathering: Axis Americanus  110

4. Civic Geographies and Intentional Communities  151

5. Creole Heteroglossia: Counter-Regionalism and the New Orleans Short Fiction of Alice Dunbar-Nelson  190

Epilogue. Post Scale: Place as Emergence  211

Notes  219

Bibliography  261

Index  285
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5811-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5797-1
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