Race and Romance in Gone With the Wind, a panel for the Popular Romance in the New Millenium conference, Nov. 10-11, 2011
Margaret Mitchell's 1936 blockbuster bestseller Gone with the Wind is a book literary critics think they know. When read by academics today, it seems interesting mainly because it retells a particularly American story—the "Dunning School" version of Reconstruction history--familiar from films like Birth of a Nation. Apart from this racism at the level of plot, vivid images of black characters as dogs (for example), by turn loyal and threatening, likewise seem somehow beyond comment. For many, the book's racism is easily attributed to the garden-variety sort marking the culmination of the Jim Crow era and easily dismissible as irrelevant today. Yet outside of academia, in our "post-racial" society, the novel enjoys an astounding popularity. As Alice Randall, author of the 2001 parody, The Wind Done Gone, notes, dominant American society continues to uncritically accept both the novel's interpretation of history and the stereotypes that accompany it. This panel moves race back to center stage in our reading of this important American romance. Approaches might address: the part of race or racism in the novel's contemporary appeal, the race/romance nexus in American culture, and/or the popular/academic divide.
Expressions of interest by June 1. Proposals due on June 15th.