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INTRODUCTION BY ARNOLD RAMPERSAD, cognizant dean for humanities at Stanford University.
The Quest of the Silver Fleece was the first novel to come from world-famous sociologist and civil-rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois. A controversial title of its time, the novel chronicles the complex interactions between Northern financing and Southern politics as it follows the story of free-spirited Zora, child of a Southern swamp, and her romance with Yankee-educated Bles, who will eventually face the opportunity to claim political power through corrupt means. In the middle of it all is the silver fleece, a crop of cotton rich with meaning and symbolism.
In the tradition of other incendiary novels that explore market forces at the turn of the century, such as Frank Norris’s The Pit and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, The Quest of the Silver Fleece was seen as an “economic study” by Du Bois, yet it was also a romantic and otherwordly saga, loosely based on the Greek myth from which it takes its name. Using literary conventions to expose and oppose America’s views on race, Du Bois presents a sprawling and provocative work that continues to engage readers and inspire debate among literary scholars today.