The 'Color-Line' Criticism: Literary Fiction, Historical Facts, and the Critical Controversies about William Styron’s "The Confessions of Nat Turner"
AbstractThis article analyses critical responses to William Styron’s "The Confessions of Nat Turner", claiming that the reception of the novel was strongly determined by the question of race and the different perception-and-interpretation of a “common” history by black and white Americans. I demonstrate that the polemics about Styron’s novel resulted not only from an entirely different understanding by white and black critics of the question as to what literature is essentially and what social role it has to perform, but also from the incompatible implementation of historiography, in the realm of which both sides placed the novel. I argue that, as a result, the critical controversies about "The Confessions" were drawn along the so-called “color line”, a category which traditionally defined Americans according to their race.
American history; color line; criticism; historical facts; historical novel; literary fiction; race; slavery