Friday, June 21, 2024

What if Matt Seybold is right about James and Huck?

Among many other insightful comments during a recent presentation, Matt Seybold stated that, "I really believe James and Huck are going to become indivisible from one another." He was discussing Percival Everett's recent novel James and Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). 

Seybold went on to note that "For Twain's novel to retain its hyper canonical status it's going to have to fuse with Everett's, and I really think it's going to be all the better for it." 

That's really useful to consider. And I started wondering what it means if Seybold's right. Or what really stands out to me is how rare it is for us to think about a novel by an African American writer having or even possibly having a strong effect on future studies of a major (white) canonical text.  

Sure, there are many works over here in African American literature that we hold in high esteem. But how many of those works could we comfortably assert will become crucial to understanding a previously published canonical text or character in American literature?
Toni Morrison has this book Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (1992) that mentions the ways blackness appears in works by white writers. However, it's worth considering other possibilities as well, specifically how major literary works by Black authors might influence how we read a wide range of artistic productions. 

Seybold's presentation gave me more context for thinking critically and creatively about James and Huckleberry Finn. His talk was part of The Mark Twain House & Museum's "The Trouble Begins" series.


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