ABSTRACT

Explicit or implicit, the Africanist presence informs in compelling and inescapable ways the texture of American literature. It is a dark and abiding presence, there for the literary imagination as both a visible and an invisible mediating force. Even, and especially, when American texts are not about Africanist presences or characters or narrative or idiom, the shadow hovers in implication, in sign, in line of demarcation. Romance was the form in which this uniquely American prophylaxis could be played out. Long after the movement in Europe, romance remained the cherished expression of young America. Romance, an exploration of anxiety imported from the shadows of European culture, made possible the sometimes safe and other times risky embrace of quite specific, understandably human, fears: Americans' fear of being outcast, of failing, of powerlessness. Their fear of boundarylessness, their fear of the absence of so-called civilization; their fear of loneliness, of aggression both external and internal.