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Title page for ETD etd-06072006-185527

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Hagood, Charlotte Amanda
Author's Email Address charlotte.a.hagood@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-06072006-185527
Title "Tracking Down a Negro Legend": Authenticity and the Postmodern Tourist in Colson Whitehead's John Henry Days
Degree Master of Arts
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Professor Lynn Enterline Committee Co-Chair
Professor Paul Young Committee Co-Chair
  • tourism
  • John Henry Days
  • Colson Whitehead
Date of Defense 2006-08-01
Availability unrestricted
In John Henry Days (2001), Colson Whitehead develops a hermeneutic in which the experiences of three generations of tourists, all in search of the folk hero John Henry, become ways of reading and rediscovering the forgotten history of the African-American experience from which John Henry arose. In tracing the intermingled narratives of Dr. Guy Johnson, Mr. Street, J. Sutter and Pamela Street, Whitehead foregrounds the epistemological and ontological methods by which tourists shape meaning from their experiences, confronting the postmodern dilemma of a history which is at once infinitely appropriable and far too complex to be captured in any single reading. Ultimately, Whitehead’s solution to this problem of postmodern historicism is found in the characters who write themselves into the legend of John Henry, adding their own stories to the vast corpus of the John Henry tradition through their writings, collections, and acts.
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