“...A raceless critic is a primate's dream.”—Derek Walcott, Midsummer. The substance of James Tuttleton's compelling new collection of literary essays is the work of black writers and the representation of the black experience in America. Mr. Tuttleton approaches the subject with caution, but with his usual clear-eyed judgment, seeking to restore objective criticism to its proper role in the treatment of “minority” writings. “I am advised that only commentary that enhances self-esteem is permitted these days,” he notes. “But the function of criticism is not to cultivate racial or authorial self-esteem.” Instead Mr. Tuttleton aims to approach the black poet Derek Walcott's ideal of a raceless critic, one who judges by the character of the work rather than by the skin color of its author. He applies the standard in essays on Frederick Douglass, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Lincoln and his generals, Mark Twain, Countee Cullen, Richard Wright, Derek Walcott, and Ralph Ellison, and on key issues in the criticism of multicultural literature. Writing in the Hudson Review, James Seaton has called Mr. Tuttleton “a critic whose judgments can be trusted.” The Primate's Dream furthers his stature s one of our most respected critics.
James Tuttleton, who died in November 1998, was professor of English at New York University and author of A Fine Silver Thread and Vital Signs (both published by Ivan R. Dee) and of The Novel of Manners in America.