Up from Bondage

The Literatures of Russian and African American Soul

Up from Bondage

Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: Published: July 2000

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

During the nineteenth century, literate Russians and educated American blacks encountered a dominant Western narrative of world civilization that seemed to ignore the histories of Slavs and African Americans. In response, generations of Russian and black American intellectuals have asserted eloquent counterclaims for the cultural significance of a collective national “soul” veiled from prejudiced Western eyes. Up from Bondage is the first study to parallel the evolution of Russian and African American cultural nationalism in literary works and philosophical writings.
Illuminating a remarkably widespread cross-pollination between the two cultural and intellectual traditions, Dale E. Peterson frames much of his argument around W. E. B. DuBois’s concept of “double-consciousness,” wherein members of an oppressed section of society view themselves simultaneously through their own self-awareness and through the internalized standards of the dominant culture. He shows how the writings of Dostoevsky, Hurston, Chesnutt, Turgenev, Ellison, Wright, Gorky, and Naylor—texts that enacted and described this sense of double awareness—were used both to perform and to contest the established genres of Western literacy. Woven through Peterson’s textual analyses is his consideration of cultural hybridism and its effects: The writers he examines find multiple ways to testify to and challenge the symptoms of postcolonial trauma. After discussing the strong and significant affinity expressed by contemporary African American cultural theorists for the dialogic thought of Russian linguist Mikhail Bakhtin, Peterson argues that a fuller appreciation of the historic connection between the two cultures will enrich the complicated meanings of being black or Russian in a world that has traditionally avoided acknowledging pluralistic standards of civilization and cultural excellence.
This investigation of comparable moments in the development of Russian and African American ethnic self-consciousness will be valuable to students and scholars of comparative literature, philosophy, cultural theory, ethnicity, linguistics, and postcolonialism, in addition to Slavic and African American studies.

Praise

“[A] unique work of unusual importance and relevance in the post-Cold War world. . . . Up from Bondage is engaging and timely. For readers interested in slave/serf literature it offers remarkable insight into two disparate, yet similar intellectual traditions. For those engaged with literary theory and criticism, Peterson provides a provocative reading of the poetics and discourse theory of Bakhtin in relation to the ‘double consciousness’ of Russians and African Americans in the new diasporic world order of the twenty-first century. And for those concerned with the future of race and ethnic relations in world cultures, the volume encourages one to take sober lessons from our literary and cultural histories. In all, Peterson succeeds in that most difficult of tasks in writing: he has produced an insightful message for everyone.” — Thomas J. Garza , The Comparatist

“[F]ascinating stuff, and Peterson pulls it off with extraordinary elegance. . . . Peterson has produced a wonderful text, a must-read for anyone interested in the undercurrents of Western modernity.” — Eddie S. Glaude Jr. , American Literature

“[I]n the case of African American and Russian paradigms, as Peterson expertly proves, it is time to bring the soul mates together.” — Kate Baldwin, Shofar

“As a pioneering study, this book deserves high praise . . . .” — Kathleen Parthé , Slavic Review

“Peterson’s study brings together materials in a new way without violating or simplifying the cultural expression of either group. In doing so, he encourages us to rethink notions of nationalism, group identity, and cultural expression.” — Keith Byerman , Modern Fiction Studies

“This important, well-documented book opens new lines of inquiry to anyone interested in African American and Russian studies. Jargon-free, elegant, lucid prose makes this title accessible to all audiences—from the general and beginning undergraduate reader to the scholar.” — C. A. Rydel , Choice

“Whether or not one agrees with Peterson’s approach and argument, it is hard to deny the necessity of this call, or the founding significance that Up from Bondage has for the emerging Russian-American comparative field.” — Polina Rikoun , Comparative Literature Studies

"Up From Bondage examines the development of Russian and African-American ‘soul’ and reaps an abundance of cultural similarities. . . . [A] beautifully written volume that reflects meticulous research. The bibliography alone is a significant contribution to this much neglected area. What emerges from the book’s pages is a rich picture of a significant and sustained relationship between artists in these traditions. . . . Peterson has created a seamless presentation of this complex affiliation. . . . Up From Bondage is a monumental achievement. Peterson has completed an ambitious study and we are lucky beneficiaries of this fine piece of critical writing."

— Kathleen Ahern , Mississippi Quarterly

"Up from Bondage offers its readers not only new and often overlooked factual material, but also deep insights into intercultural crossroads by showing how seemingly distant and unrelated issues are woven together." — Vladimir Prozorov , American Studies International

"Up from Bondagehas much to offer the student . . . . [Peterson] must be congratulated on the fruitfulness of his endeavor . . . . [He] has widely chosen to compile an introductory survey that gestures toward further detailed research, inviting the reader to extend the dialogue." — Thomas J. Kitson , Research in African Literatures

"[A] beautifully written volume that reflects meticulous research. The bibliography alone is a significant contribution to this much neglected area. What emerges from the book's pages is a rich picture of a significant and sustained relationship between artists in these traditions. . . . The range of literary material from which Peterson draws is both deep and wide. . . . [A] satisfying read. Up from Bondage is a monumental achievement. Peterson has completed an ambitious study and we are the lucky beneficiaries of this fine piece of critical writing." — Kathleen Ahern , Mississippi Quarterly

"[A] satisfying read. Up from Bondage is an ambitious study made worthwhile by Peterson's ability to sustain a cogent argument spanning a period from the earliest proclamations of Russian and African American self-awareness to very recent developments within the African American canon." — Kathleen M. Ahern , Studies in Twentieth and Twenty-first Century Literature

"[A]n excellent example of the somewhat neglected art of comparative literature." — Michael Pursglove , Modern Language Review

"[P]ioneering. . . ." — Polina Rikoun , Comparative Literature Studies

"This is an important work of value not merely to scholars of Russian and/or African-American literature, but to all those interested in the comparative study of cultural aesthetics."

— Barbara Wyllie , S.E.E.R.

“A remarkable, almost epic book. Up from slavery and up from Slavdom: Dale Peterson focuses on comparable moments in the coming-to-consciousness of two ‘dark continents,’ the African and the Russian, where the stubborn fact of bondage for the many, a rich and conflicted dual identity for the educated few, and routine exclusion from the European mainstream as ‘non-historical peoples’ motivated a sophisticated intellectual odyssey that astonishes us afresh each time we rediscover it. Up From Bondage is an inspiration.” — Caryl Emerson, Princeton University

“Navigating the endless bounty of intellectual lapses and possibilities that reside in the gap between the West (qua ‘philosophy’) and the Rest (as barbaros, or racialized ‘outcasts’), Professor Peterson finds an accommodating comparative channel in similarities between African American and Slavic forms of intellectual, missionary, and cultural nationalisms. The result is one of those books one remembers as uncannily important, yoking together seemingly incompatible regions in interesting ways.” — Houston Baker, Duke University

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Dale E. Peterson is Professor of English and Russian at Amherst College and Associate Editor of the Massachusetts Review.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments

Prologue:
Justifying the Margin: The Cultural Construction of “Soul”

1. Civilizing the Race: The Missionary Nationalism of Chaadaev and Crummell


2. Conserving the Race: The Emergence of Cultural Nationalism


3. Notes from the Underworld: Dostoevsky, DuBois, and the Discovery of Ethnic “Soul”


4. Recovering the Native Tongue: Turgenev, Chesnutt, and Hurston


5. Underground Notes: Double-Voicedness and the Poetics of NationalIdentity


6. Native Sons Against Native Soul: Maxim Gorky and Richard Wright


7. Eurasians and New Negroes: The Invention of Multicultural Nationalism


8. Preserving the Race: Rasputin, Naylor, and the Mystique of Native “Soul”

Epilogue:
Response and Call: The African American Dialogue with Bakhtin

Notes

Selected Bibliography

Index
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner, AAASS Best Book in Literary/Cultural Studies


Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2560-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2526-0
Publicity material

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