Abandoning the Black Hero is the first book to examine the postwar African American white-life novel—novels with white protagonists written by African Americans. These fascinating works have been understudied despite having been written by such defining figures in the tradition as Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Ann Petry, and Chester Himes, as well as lesser known but formerly best-selling authors Willard Motley and Frank Yerby.
John C. Charles argues that these fictions have been overlooked because they deviate from two critical suppositions: that black literature is always about black life and that when it represents whiteness, it must attack white supremacy. The authors are, however, quite sympathetic in the treatment of their white protagonists, which Charles contends should be read not as a failure of racial pride but instead as a strategy for claiming creative freedom, expansive moral authority, and critical agency.
In an era when “Negro writers” were expected to protest, their sympathetic treatment of white suffering grants these authors a degree of racial privacy previously unavailable to them. White writers, after all, have the privilege of racial privacy because they are never pressured to write only about white life. Charles reveals that the freedom to abandon the “Negro problem” encouraged these authors to explore a range of new genres and themes, generating a strikingly diverse body of novels that significantly revise our understanding of mid-twentieth-century black writing.
A hard-hitting look at the regulation of sexual difference and its role in circumscribing African American culture
The sociology of race relations in America typically describes an intersection of poverty, race, and economic discrimination. But what is missing from the picture—sexual difference—can be as instructive as what is present. In this ambitious work, Roderick A. Ferguson reveals how the discourses of sexuality are used to articulate theories of racial difference in the field of sociology. He shows how canonical sociology—Gunnar Myrdal, Ernest Burgess, Robert Park, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and William Julius Wilson—has measured African Americans’s unsuitability for a liberal capitalist order in terms of their adherence to the norms of a heterosexual and patriarchal nuclear family model. In short, to the extent that African Americans’s culture and behavior deviated from those norms, they would not achieve economic and racial equality.
Aberrations in Black tells the story of canonical sociology’s regulation of sexual difference as part of its general regulation of African American culture. Ferguson places this story within other stories—the narrative of capital’s emergence and development, the histories of Marxism and revolutionary nationalism, and the novels that depict the gendered and sexual idiosyncrasies of African American culture—works by Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, and Toni Morrison. In turn, this book tries to present another story—one in which people who presumably manifest the dysfunctions of capitalism are reconsidered as indictments of the norms of state, capital, and social science. Ferguson includes the first-ever discussion of a new archival discovery—a never-published chapter of Invisible Man that deals with a gay character in a way that complicates and illuminates Ellison’s project.
Unique in the way it situates critiques of race, gender, and sexuality within analyses of cultural, economic, and epistemological formations, Ferguson’s work introduces a new mode of discourse—which Ferguson calls queer of color analysis—that helps to lay bare the mutual distortions of racial, economic, and sexual portrayals within sociology.
One of the few books of its kind, Acting Up and Getting Down brings together seven African American literary voices that all have a connection to the Lone Star state. Covering Texas themes and universal ones, this collection showcases often-overlooked literary talents to bring to life inspiring facets of black theatre history.
Capturing the intensity of racial violence in Texas, from the Battle of San Jacinto to a World War I–era riot at a Houston training ground, Celeste Bedford Walker’s Camp Logan and Ted Shine’s Ancestors provide fascinating narratives through the lens of history. Thomas Meloncon’s Johnny B. Goode and George Hawkins’s Br’er Rabbit explore the cultural legacies of blues music and folktales. Three unflinching dramas (Sterling Houston’s Driving Wheel, Eugene Lee’s Killingsworth, and Elizabeth Brown-Guillory’s When the Ancestors Call) examine homosexuality, a death in the family, and child abuse, bringing to light the private tensions of intersections between the individual and the community.
Supplemented by a chronology of black literary milestones as well as a playwrights’ canon, Acting Up and Getting Down puts the spotlight on creative achievements that have for too long been excluded from Texas letters. The resulting anthology not only provides new insight into a regional experience but also completes the American story as told onstage.
Activist Sentiments takes as its subject women who in fewer than fifty years moved from near literary invisibility to prolific productivity. Grounded in primary research and paying close attention to the historical archive, this book offers against-the-grain readings of the literary and activist work of Harriet Jacobs, Harriet Wilson, Frances E. W. Harper, Victoria Earle Matthews and Amelia E. Johnson.
Part literary criticism and part cultural history, Activist Sentiments examines nineteenth-century social, political, and representational literacies and reading practices. P. Gabrielle Foreman reveals how Black women's complex and confrontational commentary–often expressed directly in their journalistic prose and organizational involvement--emerges in their sentimental, and simultaneously political, literary production.
Satire's real purpose as a literary genre is to criticize through humor, irony, caricature, and parody, and ultimately to defy the status quo. In African American Satire, Darryl Dickson-Carr provides the first book-length study of African American satire and the vital role it has played. In the process he investigates African American literature, American literature, and the history of satire.
Dickson-Carr argues that major works by such authors as Rudolph Fisher, Ishmael Reed, Ralph Ellison, Langston Hughes, and George S. Schuyler should be read primarily as satires in order to avoid misinterpretation and to gain a greater understanding of their specific meanings and the eras in which they were written. He also examines the satirical rhetoric and ideological bases of complex works such as John Oliver Killens's The Cotillion and Cecil Brown's The Life and Loves of Mr. Jiveass Nigger—books that are currently out of print and that have received only scant critical attention since they were first published.
Beginning with the tradition of folk humor that originated in West Africa and was forcibly transplanted to the Americas through chattel slavery, Dickson-Carr focuses in each chapter on a particular period of the twentieth century in which the African American satirical novel flourished. He analyzes the historical contexts surrounding African American literature and culture within discrete crucial movements, starting with the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and ending in the present. He also demonstrates how the political, cultural, and literary ethos of each particular moment is manifested and contested in each text.
By examining these texts closely within their historical and ideological contexts, Dickson-Carr shows how African American satirical novels provide the reader of African American literature with a critique of popular ideologies seldom found in nonsatirical works. Providing a better understanding of what satire is and why it is so important for fulfilling many of the goals of African American literature, African American Satire will be an important addition to African American studies.
Werner Sollors’ African American Writing takes a fresh look at what used to be called “Negro literature.” The essays collected here, ranging in topic from Gustavus Vassa/Olaudah Equiano to LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, and in time from the Enlightenment to the Obama presidency, take a literary approach to black writing and present writers as readers and as intellectuals who were or are open to the world.
From W.E.B. Du Bois commenting on Richard Wagner and Elvis Presley, to Zora Neale Hurston attacking Brown v. Board of Ed. in a segregationist newspaper, to Charles Chesnutt’s effigy darkened for the black heritage postage stamp, Sollors alternates between close readings and broader cultural contextualizations to delineate the various aesthetic modes and intellectual exchanges that shaped a series of striking literary works.
Readers will make often-surprising discoveries in the authors’ writing and in their encounters and dialogues with others. The essays, accompanied by Winold Reiss’s pastels, Carl Van Vechten’s photographs, and other portraits, attempt to honor this important literature’s achievement, heterogeneity, and creativity.
Reveals a century of political solidarity uniting Asians and African Americans
As early as 1914, in his pivotal essay “The World Problem of the Color Line,” W. E. B. Du Bois was charting a search for Afro-Asian solidarity and for an international anticolonialism. In Afro-Orientalism, Bill Mullen traces the tradition of revolutionary thought and writing developed by African American and Asian American artists and intellectuals in response to Du Bois’s challenge.
Afro-Orientalism unfolds here as a distinctive strand of cultural and political work that contests the longstanding, dominant discourse about race and nation first fully named in Edward Said’s Orientalism. Mullen tracks Afro-Asian engagement with U.S. imperialism—including writings by Richard Wright, Grace and James Boggs, Robert F. Williams, and Fred Ho—and companion struggles against racism and capitalism around the globe. To this end, he offers Afro-Orientalism as an antidote to essentialist, race-based, or narrow conceptions of ethnic studies and postcolonial studies, calling on scholars in these fields to re-imagine their critical enterprises as mutually constituting and politically interdependent.
Badia Ahad-Legardy mines literature, visual culture, performance, and culinary arts to form an archive of black historical joy for use by the African-descended. Her analysis reveals how contemporary black artists find more than trauma and subjugation within the historical past. Drawing on contemporary African American culture and recent psychological studies, she reveals nostalgia’s capacity to produce positive emotions. Afro-nostalgia emerges as an expression of black romantic recollection that creates and inspires good feelings even within our darkest moments.
Original and provocative, Afro-Nostalgia offers black historical pleasure as a remedy to contend with the disillusionment of the present and the traumas of the past.
In this significant recovery project, Elizabeth Schroeder Schlabach investigates the institutions and streetscapes of Black Chicago that fueled an entire literary and artistic movement. She argues that African American authors and artists--such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, painter Archibald Motley, and many others--viewed and presented black reality from a specific geographic vantage point: the view along the streets of Bronzeville. Schlabach explores how the particular rhythms and scenes of daily life in Bronzeville locations, such as the State Street "Stroll" district or the bustling intersection of 47th Street and South Parkway, figured into the creative works and experiences of the artists and writers of the Black Chicago Renaissance. She also covers in detail the South Side Community Art Center and the South Side Writers' Group, two institutions of art and literature that engendered a unique aesthetic consciousness and political ideology for which the Black Chicago Renaissance would garner much fame.
Life in Bronzeville also involved economic hardship and social injustice, themes that resonated throughout the flourishing arts scene. Schlabach explores Bronzeville's harsh living conditions, exemplified in the cramped one-bedroom kitchenette apartments that housed many of the migrants drawn to the city's promises of opportunity and freedom. Many struggled with the precariousness of urban life, and Schlabach shows how the once vibrant neighborhood eventually succumbed to the pressures of segregation and economic disparity. Providing a virtual tour South Side African American urban life at street level, Along the Streets of Bronzeville charts the complex interplay and intersection of race, geography, and cultural criticism during the Black Chicago Renaissance's rise and fall.
"Tyler Hoffman brings a fresh perspective to the subject of performance poetry, and this comes at an excellent time, when there is such a vast interest across the country and around the world in the performance of poetry. He makes important connections, explaining things in a manner that remains provocative, interesting, and accessible."
---Jay Parini, Middlebury College
American Poetry in Performance: From Walt Whitman to Hip Hop is the first book to trace a comprehensive history of performance poetry in America, covering 150 years of literary history from Walt Whitman through the rap-meets-poetry scene. It reveals how the performance of poetry is bound up with the performance of identity and nationality in the modern period and carries its own shifting cultural politics. This book stands at the crossroads of the humanities and the social sciences; it is a book of literary and cultural criticism that deals squarely with issues of "performance," a concept that has attained great importance in the disciplines of anthropology and sociology and has generated its own distinct field of performance studies. American Poetry in Performance will be a meaningful contribution both to the field of American poetry studies and to the fields of cultural and performance studies, as it focuses on poetry that refuses the status of fixed aesthetic object and, in its variability, performs versions of race, class, gender, and sexuality both on and off the page.
Relating the performance of poetry to shifting political and cultural ideologies in the United States, Hoffman argues that the vocal aspect of public poetry possesses (or has been imagined to possess) the ability to help construct both national and subaltern communities. American Poetry in Performance explores public poets' confrontations with emergent sound recording and communications technologies as those confrontations shape their mythologies of the spoken word and their corresponding notions about America and Americanness.
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