Nat Turner in Black and White: Race, Trauma, and the American Cultural Imaginary

Nat Turner in Black and White: Race, Trauma, and the American Cultural Imaginary

This book reveals how writers, as explorers of collective memory and historical record, imagine cautionary Nat Turner-tales that reflect their time and beliefs. The book critically surveys how Turner inspired the cultural imagination and became a largely misunderstood and polarizing figure in the US imaginary. By locating the Turner Insurrection within the territory of historical race trauma, writers across the color-line have exposed the lasting impact of slavery on American society. As African Americans continue to endure the indignities and inequity of an insidiously racist system, servile insurrections emerge as models of heroic rebellion. Historical literature is mnemonic in nature and cautionary in purpose. Since rebellion is predetermined within unjust systems, as recently as May 2020, the police killing of yet another unarmed Black man caused nation-wide protests. The US is undergoing a paradigm shift that dispels the political fiction of racial equality and the optimistic rhetoric of a colorblind and racially reconciled America, as it exposes the devastating effects of race trauma.


Luminita Dragulescu is a Postdoctoral Researcher with the English Department at the University of Delaware. Her research interests are at the interface of contemporary American literature, Black American literature and culture, race and trauma/psychoanalytical theories, and memory and life-writing studies. Her scholarship examines how literature engages the social, political, and psychological mechanisms by which racialized discourses and racism can have traumatic effects on individuals and cultures. She has published articles and book chapters on race trauma in the literary and cultural imagination, engaging the works of Salman Rushdie, William Faulkner, James Baldwin, Phillip Roth, Art Spiegelman, Katherine Stockett, John Edgar Wideman, Mikhail Bulgakov, and Boris Pasternak. As the writer and director of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, she has produced four DVDs, including “Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker: Civil Rights Activist and Advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

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ISBN: 1-5275-5822-3

ISBN13: 978-1-5275-5822-9

Release Date: 7th October 2020

Pages: 122

Price: £58.99

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