The power of story is an integral part of my summer research. It engages with a work of literature that is also a political statement critical of the white French creole’s desire to restrict community building through racial and classist prejudices. Through story, George Washington Cable is also capable of a sort of time travel that forces readers to engage with the past while understanding that it informs the present. I, more specifically, am in conversation with the story of Cable’s Bras-Coupé, an enslaved man who became legendary by striking fear in the hearts of the novel’s characters. The story of Bras-Coupé is the novel’s equivalent to a story central to a community’s consciousness and Cable uses it to showcase racial prejudice, the cruelty of enslavement, and more.
I also grappled with contradictions and tensions of the past because my research is rooted in the 19th and 20th century. History as a living legacy started a train of thinking that, for me, opened up The Grandissimes as a way to analyze race relations still shaping today’s society, politics, religious understandings, etc. Within New Orleans, I came to see the legacy of past decisions. The construction of voodoo, for example, supports Hollywood demonization of the practice. This continued rhetoric is visible when going through old newspapers.