Brer Rabbit, Uncle Remus, and the “Cornfield Journalist”: The Tale of Joel Chandler Harris, by Walter M. Brasch (review)

Brer Rabbit, Uncle Remus, and the "Cornfield Journalist," by Walter M. Brasch (Mercer University Press, 2000)

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Brer Rabbit, Uncle Remus, and the “Cornfield Journalist”: The Tale of Joel Chandler Harris, by Walter M. Brasch (review)

by Jennifer Lynn Ritterhouse
Southern Cultures, Vol. 8, No. 4: Ghosts

Mercer University Press, 2000

In 1975 critic Robert A. Bone surveyed two decades of scholarship to find that charges of racism had put Joel Chandler Harris “in bad odor among the younger generation of literary men.” But to most readers and even many scholars today, Harris is not only odorless but invisible—forgotten, ignored. Walter M. Brasch discovered this when he mentioned Harris and his Uncle Remus stories in passing to an upper-level college journalism class. “Who?” asked one brave soul, while the rest simply jotted down the unfamiliar name in their notebooks. Brer Rabbit, Uncle Remus, and the ‘Cornfield Journalist’ is Brasch’s response to this student’s question. It is also a comprehensive biography of Harris that presents a wide array of source material and offers the most extensive account of Harris’s (and Brer Rabbit’s) long-term influence in American popular culture to date. Writing primarily to reintroduce Harris to a new generation of readers, Brasch restores Harris’s name in another sense: by ably demonstrating what a “web of contradictions” this late nineteenth-century journalist and literary giant was, Brasch makes it far more difficult for modern-day observers to dismiss Harris as simply another racist southern white.