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The Oxford History of the Novel in EnglishVolume 6: The American Novel 1879-1940$
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Priscilla Wald and Michael A. Elliott

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780195385342

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780195385342.001.0001

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Plessy and the Novel

Plessy and the Novel

(p.86) 6 Plessy and the Novel
The Oxford History of the Novel in English

Edlie Wong

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the U.S. Supreme Court landmark case of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and its influence on the form and content of the American novel. After providing a background on Plessy, which upheld de jure segregation in the United States until it was overturned by Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the chapter considers the legal argument of Albion Tourgée. It then analyzes a number of novels by authors such as Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, and Edward P. Jones. In particular, it discusses the novel in order to elucidate the racial fictions and counterfactual imaginings embedded within the legal text of the doctrine of “equal but separate” established by Plessy.

Keywords:   novel, Supreme Court, Plessy v. Ferguson, segregation, United States, Albion Tourgée, Mark Twain, equal but separate

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