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Unsettled StatesNineteenth-Century American Literary Studies$
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Dana Luciano and Ivy Wilson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781479857722

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479857722.001.0001

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Historical Totality and the African American Archive

Historical Totality and the African American Archive

(p.55) 2 Historical Totality and the African American Archive
Unsettled States

Lloyd Pratt

NYU Press

This chapter uses Edward P. Jones' The Known World—a twenty-first-century novel about slave ownership among African Americans—as a launching pad in discussing the possibilities of historical totality. It questions whether the absences inherent to archival practices concerning slaveholding in the Americas constitute an obstacle to the possibility of totality. Due to its perception of a way across the gaps of the historical record, the chapter locates resources in the African American historical romance, whose emphasis on human relationships resists the overcomplication of historical truth known as reification. In this way, the historical romance finds the necessity of speculation about the past not only an obstacle but a positive gain.

Keywords:   historical totality, slave ownership, African Americans, The Known World, Edward P. Jones, African American historical romance

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