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A Site of Nation: Black Utopian Novels in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

Abstract
ABSTRACT Contrary to the traditional view that there is lack of utopian dimension in African American literature, this dissertation argues that African American literature not only develops an exuberant utopian tradition, but also forms its own utopian uniqueness. Based on this conclusion, the dissertation specially focuses on the period between the 1880s and the first two decades of the 20th century that witnessed the first peak of African American utopian writing. Meanwhile, this era has been claimed as the “Golden Age” of Black Nationalism. Through the examination of the historical background of the co-existence of these two conflicting strains, I contend that it not only provides fertile ground for the blooming of the utopian genre in African American literary writing, but also helps justify its popularity among African American writers. Through the analysis of three African American utopian writers: Sutton E. Griggs, Pauline Hopkins and W.E.B. Du Bois, I conclude that these writers use utopian texts to express their nation consciousness — and by so doing, challenged the myth of (a) white supremacy; (b) that African Americans are incapable of imagining an ideal world; and (c) carved a way forward for the black community.
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