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New Essays on Eudora Welty, Class, and Race$
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Harriet Pollack

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781496826145

Published to University Press of Mississippi: May 2020

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496826145.001.0001

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Specters on Staircases

Specters on Staircases

Race, Property, and the Gothic in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding, and Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon

Chapter:
(p.57) Specters on Staircases
Source:
New Essays on Eudora Welty, Class, and Race
Author(s):

Sarah Gilbreath Ford

, Harriet Pollack
Publisher:
University Press of Mississippi
DOI:10.14325/mississippi/9781496826145.003.0004

In William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding, and Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon characters enter haunted houses seeking information only to be confronted on the stairs by mysterious African American women. This essay explores what is at stake in the portrayals of African American specters standing on staircases and impeding other characters’ desire for knowledge. The gothic energy driving the repetition is the conflation of person and property that happens in slavery, causing these women not just to haunt the houses but to haunt as houses, as the status of property they were assigned because of their race. While this status renders the women in one sense powerless, each uses her situation as property to assert a different kind of possession, thereby becoming powerful specters. As property, the women testify to the horror of slavery. As specters, the women reveal how that horror haunts the present.

Keywords:   Eudora Welty Delta Wedding, William Faulkner Absalom, Absalom, Toni Morrison Song of Solomon, gothic, slavery

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