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The Conjure Stories: Norton Critical Edition

The Conjure Stories: Norton Critical Edition

Charles W. Chesnutt, Robert B. Stepto (Editor), Jennifer Rae Greeson (Editor)

ISBN: 978-0-393-92780-1

*Norton agency titles

338 pages

Select type: Paperback

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Fourteen conjure tales by one of America's most influential African American fiction writers.

This Norton Critical Edition of The Conjure Stories arranges the tales chronologically by composition date, allowing readers to discern how Chesnutt experimented with plots and characters and with the idea of the conjure story over time. With one exception, the text of each tale is that of the original publication. (The text of "The Dumb Witness" was established from two typescripts held at the archives of Fisk University.) The stories are accompanied by a thorough and thought-provoking introduction, detailed explanatory annotations, and illustrative materials.

"Contexts" presents a wealth of materials chosen by the editors to enrich the reader's understanding of these canonical stories, including a map of the landscape of the conjure tales, Chesnutt's journal entry as he began writing fiction of the South, as well as writings by Chesnutt, William Wells Brown, and Paul Laurence Dunbar, among others, on the stories' central motifs-folklore, superstition, voodoo, race, and social identity in the South following the Civil War.

"Criticism" is divided into two parts. "Early Criticism" collects critical notices for The Conjure Woman that suggest the volume's initial reception, assessments by William Dean Howells and Benjamin Brawley, and a biographical excerpt by the author's daughter, Helen Chesnutt. "Modern Criticism" demonstrates rich and enduring interest in The Conjure Stories with ten important essays by Robert Hemenway, William L. Andrews, Robert B. Stepto, John Edgar Wideman, Werner Sollors, Houston A. Baker, Eric J. Sundquist, Richard H. Brodhead, Candace J. Waid, and Glenda Carpio.

A Chronology of Chesnutt's life and work and a Selected Bibliography are also included.

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A Note on the Texts


The Goophered Grapevine
Po' Sandy
The Conjurer's Revenge
Dave's Neckliss
A Deep Sleeper
Lonesome Ben
The Dumb Witness
A Victim of Heredity; or, Why the Darkey Loves Chicken
The Gray Wolf's Ha'nt
Mars Jeems's Nightmare
Sis' Becky's Pickaninny
Tobe's Tribulations
Hot-Foot Hannibal
The Marked Tree


Sarah Ingle • The Terrain of Chesnutt's Conjure Tales
Charles W. Chesnutt • From His Journal, Spring 1880
  • [Why could not a colored man . . . write a far better book about the South?]
  • [I think I must write a book]
William Wells Brown • [Voudooism in Missouri]
Joel Chandler Harris • The Sad Fate of Mr. Fox
Ovid • The Transformation of Daphne into a Laurel
Charles W. Chesnutt • Letters to Albion W. Tourgée and George Washington Cable
  • To Tourgée, Sept. 26, 1889
  • To Cable, March 29, 1890
  • To Cable, June 13, 1890
Paul Laurence Dunbar • The Deserted Plantation
Charles W. Chesnutt • Superstitions and Folk-lore of the South
  • The Free Colored People of North Carolina
  • Adaptation of "The Dumb Witness"
  • The Negro in Art: How Shall He Be Portrayed?
  • Post-Bellum-Pre-Harlem


Critical Notices of The Conjure Woman
William Dean Howells • Mr. Charles W. Chesnutt's Stories
Benjamin Brawley • [Fiction with a Firm Sense of Art]
Helen M. Chesnutt • Chesnutt and Walter Hines Page


Robert Hemenway • [Black Magic, Audience, and Belief]
William L. Andrews • [A Critique of the Plantation Legend]
Robert B. Stepto • [The Cycle of the First Four Stories]
John Edgar Wideman • [Julius's Ex-Slave Narrative]
Werner Sollors • [Reason, Property, and Modern Metamorphoses]
Houston A. Baker Jr. • [The Sound of the Conjure Stories]
Eric J. Sundquist • [Chesnutt's Revision of Uncle Remus]
Richard H. Brodhead • [Chesnutt's Negotiation with the Dominant Literary Culture]
Candace J. Waid • Conjuring the Conjugal: Chesnutt's Scenes from a Marriage
Glenda Carpio • [Black Humor in the Conjure Stories]
Charles W. Chesnutt: A Chronology

Selected Bibliography