Tales of the conjure woman
The Conjure Woman and Other Conjure Tales by Charles W. ChesnuttThe stories in The Conjure Woman were Charles W. Chesnutts first great literary success, and since their initial publication in 1899 they have come to be seen as some of the most remarkable works of African American literature from the Emancipation through the Harlem Renaissance. Lesser known, though, is that the The Conjure Woman, as first published by Houghton Mifflin, was not wholly Chesnutts creation but a work shaped and selected by his editors. This edition reassembles for the first time all of Chesnutts work in the conjure tale genre, the entire imaginative feat of which the published Conjure Woman forms a part. It allows the reader to see how the original volume was created, how an African American author negotiated with the tastes of the dominant literary culture of the late nineteenth century, and how that culture both promoted and delimited his work.
In the tradition of Uncle Remus, the conjure tale listens in on a poor black southerner, speaking strong dialect, as he recounts a local incident to a transplanted northerner for the northerners enlightenment and edification. But in Chesnutts hands the tradition is transformed. No longer a reactionary flight of nostalgia for the antebellum South, the stories in this book celebrate and at the same time question the folk culture they so pungently portray, and ultimately convey the pleasures and anxieties of a world in transition. Written in the late nineteenth century, a time of enormous growth and change for a country only recently reunited in peace, these stories act as the uneasy meeting ground for the culture of northern capitalism, professionalism, and Christianity and the underdeveloped southern economy, a kind of colonial Third World whose power is manifest in life charms, magic spells, and hants, all embodied by the ruling figure of the conjure woman.
Humorous, heart-breaking, lyrical, and wise, these stories make clear why the fiction of Charles W. Chesnutt has continued to captivate audiences for a century.
THE CONJURE WOMAN
Author: Charles W. Editor: Richard H. Brodhead has given us an excellent basis on which to continue the reinterpretation of Chesnutt that is underway. An important forerunner of Zora Neale Hurston and Ralph Ellison, among others, Chesnutt is a writer of interest in many fields and a key voice in nineteenth-century African-American culture. Sundquist, The Journal of American History.
The Conjure Woman is a collection of short stories by African-American fiction writer, essayist, and activist Charles W. First published in , The Conjure Woman  is considered a seminal work of African-American literature. Chesnutt wrote the collection's first story, "The Gophered Grapevine," in and published it in The Atlantic Monthly. Chesnutt wrote three more of the stories between and he called "Conjure Tales," two of which would eventually appear in The Conjure Woman. Houghton Mifflin did not note Chesnutt's race when announcing and advertising the publication of The Conjure Woman. In an letter to his mentor, the Southern novelist George Washington Cable , Chesnutt explained his intent to subvert the popular image of the Negro in literary magazines, saying that "all of the many Negroes. Such characters exist.
The Conjure Woman , the first collection of stories by Charles W. The seven stories began appearing in magazines in and were first collected in a book in Unusual for dialect tales of the period, the stories give a realistic picture of the pre-Civil War South, including descriptions of penurious, brutish masters. Conjuration—magic effected by hoodoo practitioners—helps slaves to overcome difficulties; thus, spells are cast and humans are transformed into birds and mammals in the course of these tales. The Conjure Woman.
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Chesnutt first worked in Charlotte and Fayetteville as a schoolteacher, a career he began as a pupil-teacher at age fourteen. Having grown frustrated by the limited opportunities he encountered as a mixed-race individual living in the South, he moved permanently to Cleveland in the early s, settling his entire family there by After passing the Ohio bar in , he opened a successful stenography business. The publication of "The Goophered Grapevine" later to become the first story in The Conjure Woman in the Atlantic Monthly in August inaugurated Chesnutt's influential literary career. The publication of two collections of short stories and three novels between and helped establish Charles Chesnutt as the most prominent African American fiction writer during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Chesnutt's second novel, The Marrow of Tradition , was published a year later in
Some years ago my wife was in poor health, and our family doctor, in whose skill and honesty I had implicit confidence, advised a change of climate. I shared, from an unprofessional standpoint, his opinion that the raw winds, the chill rains, and the violent changes of temperature that characterized the winters in the region of the Great Lakes tended to aggravate my wife's difficulty, and would undoubtedly shorten her life if she remained exposed to them. The doctor's advice was that we seek, not a temporary place of sojourn, but a permanent residence, in a warmer and more equable climate. I was engaged at the time in grape-culture in northern Ohio, and, as I liked the business and had given it much study, I decided to look for some other locality suitable for carrying it on. I thought of sunny France, of sleepy Spain, of Southern California, but there were objections to them all.