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“Through a Glass, Darkly: Medievalism and Racial Inversion in Chestnutt’s The House Behind the Cedars and Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”

Thursday, September 19, 2013
12:00 AM
1014 Tisch Hall

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, both Mark Twain and Charles Chestnutt published novels inspired by medieval romance. Why did these writers, at the height of their careers, turn to the medieval? Prof. Vernon examines how such a maneuver undergirds the critical power of Twain and Chestnutt’s texts, and how their use of medieval romance subverts traditional depictions of race and justice.

A medievalist unbounded by periodization, Prof. Vernon’s current project explores African-American scholars and writers who incorporated medieval literature within both university curricula and fiction, helping to fashion their conceptions of identity within the nation, and as intellectuals amidst the larger movement of medieval revivalism.

Made possible by the generous support of the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Program, the English Department and the Middle English Reading Group, the Department of African-American Studies, the Department of Comparative Literature, the Institute for the Humanities, and the Rackham Graduate School.

For any questions, please contact Peggy McCracken ( or Laura Miles (

Matthew Vernon, University of California-Davis