Uncle Tom's Cabin: Re-Evaluating an American Classic
Thursday April 12, 2012
Originally published in 1852,
Harriet Beecher Stowe's classic novel Uncle Tom's Cabin has been lauded and derided, but has always been discussed. The 150th Anniversary of its publication in 2012 is an excellent time to take a fresh look at this novel, its effect on the abolitionist movement in the 19th century, and what it shows us about the power of literature.
Novelists Darryl Pinckney, who wrote the introduction to the Signet Classic edition, Jane Smiley, who wrote the introduction to the 2001 Modern Library edition, and Roxana Robinson, whose great-great-great aunt was Harriet Beecher Stowe, discussed the lasting influence of the novel and its relevance in today's society.
Darryl Pinckney, a long-time contributor to The New York Review of Books, is the author of a novel, High Cotton (1992). The book is a coming-of-age novel that depicts a young Black man's futile attempts to escape from old and new styles of Black identity, as defined by his grandfather's generation and his own militant contemporaries. Pinckney is currently working on Sold and Gone, a collection of essays about African-American literature in the 20th century that examines black writers from Charles Chesnutt to Edward P. Jones.
Roxana Robinson is the author of eight books - four novels: Cost, Sweetwater, This Is My Daughter, and Summer Light; three collections of short stories: A Perfect Stranger, Asking for Love and A Glimpse of Scarlet; and the biography Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life. Four of these were chosen as New York Times Notable Books, two more as New York Times Editors’ Choices. Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Daedalus, One Story, The American Scholar, PEN Journal, Best American Short Stories and elsewhere. Her non-fiction has appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and elsewhere. Her work has been widely anthologised and broadcast on NPR. Her books have been published in England, France, Germany, Holland and Spain. Robinson’s essays, reviews and Op-Eds have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The International Herald Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Tin House. She has written about gardens, plants and the natural world for House and Garden, Fine Gardening and Horticulture. Robinson is also a scholar of American Painting, and her essays in this field have appeared in Arts, Art News, and in museum exhibition catalogues. Roxana Robinson has received fellowships from the NEA, the MacDowell Colony and the Guggenheim Foundation. She was named a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library. Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life was nominated for the NBCC Award. Asking for Love was named a Book of the Year by the American Library Association. Robinson has been a fiction finalist for the National Magazine Awards. Her novel Cost was named an Editors’ Choice at The New York Times, won the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Fiction Award for 2009, and was named one of the Five Best Fiction Books of the Year by the Washington Post. It was named one of the 12 Best Books of the Year by the Wall Street Journal, and was on the Best of the Year List at Library Journal, the Seattle Times and the Chicago Tribune. It has been long-listed for the international Dublin Impac Award for Fiction. Ms. Robinson has served on the Board of the National Humanities Council. She is currently an officer of the board of PEN American Center, and she also serves on the boards of the Authors’ Guild and the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. She is on the advisory council of The Mount. She has taught at the University of Houston, Wesleyan University and the New School. She currently teaches in the M.F.A. program at Hunter College. She lives in New York City and in Maine.
Jane Smiley was born in Los Angeles, California, moved to the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri as an infant, and lived there through grammar school and high school (The John Burroughs School). After getting her BA at Vassar College in 1971, she traveled in Europe for a year, working on an archeological dig and sightseeing, and then returned to Iowa for graduate school at the University of Iowa. MFA and PhD in hand, she went to work in 1981 at Iowa State University, in Ames, where she taught until 1996. Jane is the author of numerous novels including The Age of Grief, The Greenlanders, Ordinary Love and Good Will, A Thousand Acres, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992, Moo, Horse Heaven, Good Faith, Ten Days in the Hills, and the young adult novel, The Georges and the Jewels, as well as many essays for such magazines as Vogue, The New Yorker, Practical Horseman, Harper’s,The New York Times Magazine, Allure, The Nation and others. She has written on politics, farming, horse training, child-rearing, literature, impulse buying, getting dressed, Barbie, marriage, and many other topics. She is also the author of the nonfiction books A Year at the Races, Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel and from Penguin Lives Series, a biography of Charles Dickens. In 2001, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters and in 2006, she received the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature. Her latest book is Private Life. She lives in Northern California, as do several of her horses.