Master thoughts

Dale M. Bauer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


One of my first assumptions about teaching Emma Kelley-Hawkins's novel Megda (1891) in an undergraduate class devoted to nineteenth-century American fictions, from The Coquette through "The Jolly Corner," was that the students would hate it. (Why teach a book that I imagine my students will hate is another question entirely.) I assumed, wrongly it turns out, that students, first at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and then at the University of Kentucky (UK), would object to Kelley-Hawkins's preaching the lesson of Christian salvation and material renunciation. To my surprise, I discovered that most of them loved it, and they did so precisely for the reason I most distrusted-the novel's didacticism. While I was teaching the novel as a cultural and historical challenge to racism, they read it as "more real" than the critical and psychological realism by Henry James and William Dean Howells. Why did I never suppose that students would not reject a decidedly Christian and conservative novel about overcoming one's worldly vanity in favor of Christian submission? Focused as I was on delivering the news about racial uplift in the 1890s, I forgot about the spiritual component of the question. This is no doubt an example of the professorial blindness to student values that critics of cultural leftist teaching such as Mark Edmundson denounce: I missed the "universal"-that is, Christian-for the specific paradigm of the novel in its racial dimension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationWhite Scholars/African American Texts
EditorsLisa A. Long
PublisherRutgers University Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9780813537733
ISBN (Print)0813535980, 9780813535982
StatePublished - 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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