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African American Writing
A Literary Approach
Werner Sollors
Temple University Press, 2016

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.

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Afro Orientalism
Bill V. Mullen
University of Minnesota Press, 2004

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.

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American Gothic
New Interventions in a National Narrative
Robert K. Martin
University of Iowa Press, 1998

In America as in Britain, the rise of the Gothic represented the other—the fearful shadows cast upon Enlightenment philosophies of common sense, democratic positivism, and optimistic futurity. Many critics have recognized the centrality of these shadows to American culture and self-identification. American Gothic, however, remaps the field by offering a series of revisionist essays associated with a common theme: the range and variety of Gothic manifestations in high and popular art from the roots of American culture to the present.

The thirteen essayists approach the persistence of the Gothic in American culture by providing a composite of interventions that focus on specific issues—the histories of gender and race, the cultures of cities and scandals and sensations—in order to advance distinct theoretical paradigms. Each essay sustains a connection between a particular theoretical field and a central problem in the Gothic tradition.

Drawing widely on contemporary theory—particularly revisionist views of Freud such as those offered by Lacan and Kristeva—this volume ranges from the well-known Gothic horrors of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne to the popular fantasies of Stephen King and the postmodern visions of Kathy Acker. Special attention is paid to the issues of slavery and race in both black and white texts, including those by Ralph Ellison and William Faulkner. In the view of the editors and contributors, the Gothic is not so much a historical category as a mode of thought haunted by history, a part of suburban life and the lifeblood of films such as The Exorcist and Fatal Attraction.

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Black and White Strangers
Race and American Literary Realism
Kenneth W. Warren
University of Chicago Press, 1993
In a major contribution to the study of race in American literature, Kenneth W. Warren argues that late-nineteenth-century literary realism was shaped by and in turn helped to shape post-Civil War racial politics. Taking up a variety of novelists, including Henry James and William Dean Howells, he shows that even works not directly concerned with race were instrumental in the return after reconstruction to a racially segregated society.
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Black, White, and Huckleberry Finn
Re-imagining the American Dream
Elaine Mensh
University of Alabama Press, 2001

Takes a hard, systematic look at the depiction of blacks, whites, and race relations in Mark Twain's classic novel, raising questions about its canonical status in American literature

Huckleberry Finn, one of the most widely taught novels in American literature, has long been the subject of ongoing debates over issues ranging from immorality to racism. Here, Elaine Mensh and Harry Mensh enter the debate with a careful and thoughtful examination of racial messages imbedded in the tale of Huck and Jim.

Using as a gauge for analysis the historical record left by both slaves and slaveholders, the Menshes compare Twain's depiction with historical reality, attempting to determine where the book either undermines or upholds traditional racial attitudes. Surveying the opinions of fellow critics, they challenge the current consensus that Huckleberry Finn fosters rapport between blacks and whites, arguing that the book does not subvert ingrained beliefs about race, and demonstrating that the argument over black-white relations in the novel is also an argument over non-fictional racial relations and conflicting perceptions of racial harmony.

Reading the novel in its historical context, the Menshes conclude that Twain, in the character of Huck, never questions the institution of slavery, and even supports it in both thought and action. In response to student and parent challenges to the inclusion of the book in literature classes, they suggest that it should remain in school libraries but not be required reading.

Of importance to scholars of Mark Twain and American literature, African American cultural studies, or anyone interested in issues of literature and race, this book adds a strong voice to the long-ranging debate over Huckleberry Finn.


 
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Black, White, and in Color
Essays on American Literature and Culture
Hortense J. Spillers
University of Chicago Press, 2003
Black, White, and in Color offers a long-awaited collection of major essays by Hortense Spillers, one of the most influential and inspiring black critics of the past twenty years. Spanning her work from the early 1980s, in which she pioneered a broadly poststructuralist approach to African American literature, and extending through her turn to cultural studies in the 1990s, these essays display her passionate commitment to reading as a fundamentally political act-one pivotal to rewriting the humanist project.

Spillers is best known for her race-centered revision of psychoanalytic theory and for her subtle account of the relationships between race and gender. She has also given literary criticism some of its most powerful readings of individual authors, represented here in seminal essays on Ralph Ellison, Gwendolyn Brooks, and William Faulkner. Ultimately, the essays collected in Black, White, and in Color all share Spillers's signature style: heady, eclectic, and astonishingly productive of new ideas. Anyone interested in African American culture and literature will want to read them.
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Bound and Determined
Captivity, Culture-Crossing, and White Womanhood from Mary Rowlandson to Patty Hearst
Christopher Castiglia
University of Chicago Press, 1996
In Bound and Determined, Christopher Castiglia gives shape for the first time to a tradition of American women's captivity narrative that ranges across three centuries, from Puritan colonist Mary Rowlandson's abduction by Narragansett Indians to Patty Hearst's kidnapping by the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Examining more than sixty accounts by women captives, as well as novels ranging from Susanna Rowson's eighteenth-century classic Rueben and Rachel to today's mass-market romances, Castiglia investigates paradoxes central to the genre. In captivity, women often find freedom from stereotypical roles as helpless, dependent, sexually vulnerable, and xenophobic. In their condemnations of their non-white captors, they defy assumptions about race that undergird their own societies. Castiglia questions critical conceptions of captivity stories as primarily an appeal to racism and misogyny, and instead finds in them an appeal of a much different nature: as all-too-rare stories of imaginative challenges to rigid gender roles and racial ideologies.

Whether the women of these stories resist or escape captivity, endure until they are released, or eventually choose to live among their captors, they end up with the power to be critical of both cultures. Castiglia shows that these compelling narratives, with their boundary crossings and persistent explorations of cultural divisions and differences, have significant implications for current critical investigations into the construction of gender, race, and nation.
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Broken Silences
Interviews with Black and White Women Writers
Edited by Shirley M Jordan
Rutgers University Press, 1993
From Publishers Weekly
In these 20 interviews with women writers of fiction, Jordan, who teaches at Hampton University in Virginia, attempts to plumb the relations between black and white women in fiction and in life, and to explore the creative process. Although the book suffers from lengthy discussions of somewhat obscure work, the interviewees, most of whom have portrayed female characters of a race other than their own, offer intriguing, often conflicting observations about the primacy of race, gender or class. Kaye Gibbons ( Ellen Foster ) suggests that rural locations offer commonality to black and white Southern women; Marita Golden ( Long Distance Life ) observes that white writers emphasize female beauty while black writers focus on character. This book may be a useful supplement to literature courses.

From Library Journal
The message derived from the candid and articulate women interviewed here is, as Belva Plain states, "you learn as you live together." Editor Jordan (Hampton Univ., Virginia) has opened a dialog on writing and race relations by publishing these interviews with 20 significant contemporary black and white women writers, from Alice Childress and Joyce Carol Oates to Mildred Pitts Walker. The substance of these writers' thoughts is that the commonality of women's experience informs the genuine portrayal of a character as much as does the writer's understanding of her blackness or whiteness. This special book, so different from others that examine the writing process, is likely to stimulate dialog among women and to provoke serious study of many excellent women writers working today. Recommended for all collections supporting the study of literature, women's studies, and race relations.
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Cannibal Democracy
Race and Representation in the Literature of the Americas
Zita Nunes
University of Minnesota Press, 2008

Zita Nunes argues that the prevailing narratives of identity formation throughout the Americas share a dependence on metaphors of incorporation and, often, of cannibalism. From the position of the incorporating body, the construction of a national and racial identity through a process of assimilation presupposes a remainder, a residue.

Nunes addresses works by writers and artists who explore what is left behind in the formation of national identities and speak to the limits of the contemporary discourse of democracy. Cannibal Democracy tracks its central metaphor’s circulation through the work of writers such as Mário de Andrade, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Toni Morrison and journalists of the black press, as well as work by visual artists including Magdalena Campos-Pons and Keith Piper, and reveals how exclusion-understood in terms of what is left out-can be fruitfully understood in terms of what is left over from a process of unification or incorporation.

Nunes shows that while this remainder can be deferred into the future-lurking as a threat to the desired stability of the present-the residue haunts discourses of national unity, undermining the ideologies of democracy that claim to resolve issues of race.

Zita Nunes is associate professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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Chesnutt and Realism
A Study of the Novels
Ryan Simmons
University of Alabama Press, 2006
Provides an important examination of Charles Chesnutt as a practitioner of realism

Although Chesnutt is typically acknowledged as the most prominent African American writer of the realist period, scholars have paid little attention to the central question of this study: what does it mean to call Chesnutt a realist? As a writer whose career was restricted by the dismal racial politics of his era, Chesnutt refused to conform to literary conventions for depicting race. Nor did he use his imaginative skills to evade the realities he and other African Americans faced. Rather, he experimented with ways of portraying reality that could elicit an appropriate, proportionate response to it, as Ryan Simmons demonstrates in extended readings of each of Chesnutt’s novels, including important unpublished works overlooked by previous critics.

In addition, Chesnutt and Realism addresses a curiously neglected subject in American literary studies—the relationship between American literary realism and race. By taking Chesnutt seriously as a contributor to realism, this book articulates the strategies by which one African American intellectual helped to define the discourses that influenced his fate.
 
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Codes of Conduct
Race, Ethics, and the Color of Our Character
Holloway, Karla F. C.
Rutgers University Press, 1995

In Codes of Conduct,  Karla Holloway meditates on the dynamics of race and ethnicity as they are negotiated in the realms of power. Her uniquely insightful and intelligent analysis guides us in a fresh way through Anita Hill’s interrogation, the assault on Tawana Brawley, the mass murders of Atlanta’s children, the schisms between the personal and public domains of her life as a black professor, and––in a moving epilogue––the story of her son’s difficulties growing up as a young black male in contemporary society. Its three main sections: “The Body Politic,” “Language, Thought, and Culture,” and “The Moral Lives of Children,” relate these issues to the visual power of the black and female body, the aesthetic resonance and racialized drama of language, and our children’s precarious habits of surviving. Throughout, Holloway questions the consequences in African-American community life of citizenship that is meted out sparingly when one’s ethnicity is colored.

This is a book of a culture’s stories––from literature, public life, contemporary and historical events, aesthetic expression, and popular culture––all located within the common ground of African-American ethnicity. Holloway writes with a passion, urgency, and wit that carry the reader swiftly through each chapter. The book should take its place among those other important contemporary works that speak to the future relationships between whites and blacks in this country.

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The Colors of Zion
Blacks, Jews, and Irish from 1845 to 1945
George Bornstein
Harvard University Press, 2011

A major reevaluation of relationships among Blacks, Jews, and Irish in the years between the Irish Famine and the end of World War II, The Colors of Zion argues that the cooperative efforts and sympathies among these three groups, each persecuted and subjugated in its own way, was much greater than often acknowledged today. For the Black, Jewish, and Irish writers, poets, musicians, and politicians at the center of this transatlantic study, a sense of shared wrongs inspired repeated outpourings of sympathy. If what they have to say now surprises us, it is because our current constructions of interracial and ethnic relations have overemphasized conflict and division. As George Bornstein says in his Introduction, he chooses “to let the principals speak for themselves.”

While acknowledging past conflicts and tensions, Bornstein insists on recovering the “lost connections” through which these groups frequently defined their plights as well as their aspirations. In doing so, he examines a wide range of materials, including immigration laws, lynching, hostile race theorists, Nazis and Klansmen, discriminatory university practices, and Jewish publishing houses alongside popular plays like The Melting Pot and Abie’s Irish Rose, canonical novels like Ulysses and Daniel Deronda, music from slave spirituals to jazz, poetry, and early films such as The Jazz Singer. The models of brotherhood that extended beyond ethnocentrism a century ago, the author argues, might do so once again today, if only we bear them in mind. He also urges us to move beyond arbitrary and invidious categories of race and ethnicity.

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Cross-Racial Class Protest in Antebellum American Literature
Timothy Helwig
University of Massachusetts Press, 2020
Historians have long claimed that the antebellum white working class viewed blacks, both free and enslaved, not as allies but enemies. While it is true that racial and ethnic strife among northern workers prevented an effective labor movement from materializing in America prior to the Civil War, Cross-Racial Class Protest in Antebellum American Literature demonstrates that a considerable subset of white and black writers were able to imagine cross-racial solidarity in the sensation novels and serial fiction, slave narratives, autobiographies, speeches, and newspaper editorials that they penned.

Timothy Helwig analyzes the shared strategies of class protest in popular and canonical texts from a range of antebellum white and black American authors, including George Lippard, Ned Buntline, Harry Hazel, Frederick Douglass, William Wells Brown, and Frank J. Webb. This pathbreaking study offers original perspectives on racial representations in antebellum American print culture and provides a new understanding of black and white authors' strivings for socioeconomic justice across racial lines in the years leading up to the Civil War.
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DECIPHERING RACE
WHITE ANXIETY, RACIAL CONFLICT, & THE TURN TO FICTION IN MID-VICTORIAN ENGLISH PROSE
LAURA CALLANAN
The Ohio State University Press, 2005
Deciphering Race engages with the complex and contested world of Victorian racial discourse. In the five central texts under consideration in this study—Harriet Martineau’s The Hour and the Man, Robert Knox’s The Races of Men, Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins’s “The Perils of Certain English Prisoners,” the transcript of the inquiry into the Governor Eyre Controversy, and James Grant’s First Love and Last Love—a white English author or character turns to the aesthetic in order to assuage a sense of anxiety produced by a confrontation with racial otherness. White characters or narrators confront the limitations of preconceived ideologies or the interlacing of oppressions, and subsequently falter.

In this manner these narratives confront the complexity, indeterminacy, and irrationality of both racial difference and the systems put in place to understand that difference. Deciphering Race unpacks this narrative turn to the aesthetic in writings by white English individuals and thus reveals the instability at the heart of cultural understanding of race and racial tropes at mid-century. This series of readings will help to see how figurative structures, while providing a bridge between different cultures and epistemologies, also reinforce a distance that keeps groups separate. Only by disentangling these structures, by addressing and unpacking our assumptions and narratives about those different from ourselves, and by understanding our deep cultural anxiety and investment in these ways of talking about one another, can we begin to create the conditions for productive, local understanding between different cultures, races, and communities.
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Experiments in Democracy
Interracial and Cross-Cultural Exchange in American Theatre, 1912-1945
Edited by Cheryl Black and Jonathan Shandell
Southern Illinois University Press, 2016
In the first half of the twentieth century, a number of American theatres and theatre artists fostered interracial collaboration and socialization on stage, behind the scenes, and among audiences. In an era marked by entrenched racial segregation and inequality, these artists used performance to bridge America’s persistent racial divide and to bring African American, Latino/Latina, Asian American, Native American, and Jewish American communities and traditions into the nation’s broader cultural conversation.
 
In Experiments in Democracy, edited by Cheryl Black and Jonathan Shandell, theatre historians examine a wide range of performances—from Broadway, folk plays and dance productions to scripted political rallies and radio dramas. Contributors look at such diverse groups as the Theatre Union, La Unión Martí-Maceo, and the American Negro Theatre, as well as individual playwrights and their works, including Theodore Browne’s folk opera Natural Man, Josefina Niggli’s Soldadera, and playwright Lynn Riggs’s Cherokee Night and Green Grow the Lilacs (the basis for the musical Oklahoma!). Exploring the ways progressive artists sought to connect isolated racial and cultural groups in pursuit of a more just and democratic society, contributors take into account the blind spots, compromised methods, and unacknowledged biases at play in their practices and strategies. Essays demonstrate how the gap between the ideal of American democracy and its practice—mired in entrenched systems of white privilege, economic inequality, and social prejudice—complicated the work of these artists.
 
Focusing on questions of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality on the stage in the decades preceding the Civil Rights era, Experiments in Democracy fills an important gap in our understanding of the history of the American stage—and sheds light on these still-relevant questions in contemporary American society. 
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From Mammies to Militants
Domestics in Black American Literature from Charles Chesnutt to Toni Morrison
Trudier Harris
University of Alabama Press, 2023
Welfare queen, hot momma, unwed mother: these stereotypes of Black women share their historical conception in the image of the Black woman as domestic. Focusing on the issue of stereotypes, the new edition of Trudier Harris’s classic 1982 study From Mammies to Militants examines the position of the domestic in Black American literature with a new afterword bringing her analysis into the present.

From Charles Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition to Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Black writers, some of whom worked as maids themselves, have manipulated the stereotype in a strategic way as a figure to comment on Black-white relations or to dramatize the conflicts of the Black protagonists. In fact, the characters themselves, like real-life maids, often use the stereotype to their advantage or to trick their oppressors.

Harris combines folkloristic, sociological, historical, and psychological analyses with literary ones, drawing on her own interviews with Black women who worked as domestics. She explores the differences between Northern and Southern maids and between “mammy” and “militant.” Her invaluable book provides a sweeping exploration of Black American writers of the twentieth century, with extended discussion of works by Charles Chesnutt, Kristin Hunter, Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, Ann Petry, William Melvin Kelley, Alice Childress, John A. Williams, Douglas Turner Ward, Barbara Woods, Ted Shine, and Ed Bullins. Often privileging political statements over realistic characterization in the design of their texts, the authors in Harris’s study urged Black Americans to take action to change their powerless conditions, politely if possible, violently if necessary. Through their commitment to improving the conditions of Black people in America, these writers demonstrate the connectedness of art and politics.

In her new afterword, “From Militants to Movie Stars,” Harris looks at domestic workers in African American literature after the original publication of her book in 1982. Exploring five subsequent literary treatments of Black domestic workers from Ernest J. Gaines’s A Lesson Before Dying to Lynn Nottage’s By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, Harris tracks how the landscape of representation of domestic workers has broken with tradition and continues to transform into something entirely new.
 
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From Mammies to Militants
Domestics in Black American Literature from Charles Chesnutt to Toni Morrison
Trudier Harris
University of Alabama Press, 2023
Welfare queen, hot momma, unwed mother: these stereotypes of Black women share their historical conception in the image of the Black woman as domestic. Focusing on the issue of stereotypes, the new edition of Trudier Harris’s classic 1982 study From Mammies to Militants examines the position of the domestic in Black American literature with a new afterword bringing her analysis into the present.

From Charles Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition to Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Black writers, some of whom worked as maids themselves, have manipulated the stereotype in a strategic way as a figure to comment on Black-white relations or to dramatize the conflicts of the Black protagonists. In fact, the characters themselves, like real-life maids, often use the stereotype to their advantage or to trick their oppressors.

Harris combines folkloristic, sociological, historical, and psychological analyses with literary ones, drawing on her own interviews with Black women who worked as domestics. She explores the differences between Northern and Southern maids and between “mammy” and “militant.” Her invaluable book provides a sweeping exploration of Black American writers of the twentieth century, with extended discussion of works by Charles Chesnutt, Kristin Hunter, Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, Ann Petry, William Melvin Kelley, Alice Childress, John A. Williams, Douglas Turner Ward, Barbara Woods, Ted Shine, and Ed Bullins. Often privileging political statements over realistic characterization in the design of their texts, the authors in Harris’s study urged Black Americans to take action to change their powerless conditions, politely if possible, violently if necessary. Through their commitment to improving the conditions of Black people in America, these writers demonstrate the connectedness of art and politics.

In her new afterword, “From Militants to Movie Stars,” Harris looks at domestic workers in African American literature after the original publication of her book in 1982. Exploring five subsequent literary treatments of Black domestic workers from Ernest J. Gaines’s A Lesson Before Dying to Lynn Nottage’s By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, Harris tracks how the landscape of representation of domestic workers has broken with tradition and continues to transform into something entirely new.
 
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Goodbye Christ?
Christianity, Masculinity, and the New Negro Renaissance
Peter Kerry Powers
University of Tennessee Press, 2017

Despite the proliferation of criticism on the cultural work of the Harlem Renaissance over the course of the past two decades, surprisingly few critics have focused on the ways in which religious contexts shaped the works of New Negro writers and artists during that time. In Goodbye Christ? Christianity, Masculinity, and the New Negro Renaissance, Peter Kerry Powers fills this scholarly void, exploring how the intersection of race, religion, and gender during the Harlem Renaissance impacted the rhetoric and imagination of prominent African American writers of the early twentieth century.

In order to best understand the secular academic thought that arose during the Harlem Renaissance period, Powers argues, readers must first understand the religious contexts from which it grew. By illustrating how religion informed the New Negro movement, and through his analysis of a range of texts, Powers delineates the ways in which New Negro writers of the early twentieth century sought to loosen the grip of Christianity on the racial imagination, thereby clearing a space for their own cultural work—and for the development of a secular African American intelligentsia generally.

In addition to his examination of well-known authors, including W. E. B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston, Powers also offers an illuminating perspective on lesser-known figures, including Reverdy Ransom and Frederick Cullen. In his exploration of the role of race and religion at the time, Powers employs an intersectional approach to religion and gender, and especially masculinity, that sets the discussion on fertile new ground.

Goodbye Christ? answers the call for a body of work that considers religion as a relevant precursor to the secular intelligentsia that grew during the Harlem Renaissance in the early 1900s. By offering a complete look at the tensions that arose between churches and Harlem Renaissance writers and artists, readers can gain a better understanding of the work that Harlem Renaissance writers undertook during the early decades of the twentieth century.

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Hitting A Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick
Race and Gender in the Work of Zora Neale Hurston
Susan E Meisenhelder
University of Alabama Press, 2001
Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick examines the ways Zora Neale Hurston circumvented the constraints of the white publishing world and a predominantly white readership to critique white culture and its effects on the black community. A number of critics have concluded that Hurston simply capitulated to external demands, writing stories white people wanted to hear. Susan Edwards Meisenhelder, however, argues that Hurston’s response to her situation is much more sophisticated than her detractors recognized. Meisenhelder suggests, in fact, that Hurston’s work, both fictional and anthropological, constitutes an extended critique of the values of white culture and a rejection of white models for black people. Repeatedly, Hurston’s work shows the diverse effects that traditional white values, including class divisions and gender imbalances, have on blacks.
 
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Honor Bound
Race and Shame in America
Leverenz, David
Rutgers University Press, 2012
As Bill Clinton said in his second inaugural address, “The divide of race has been America’s constant curse.” In Honor Bound, David Leverenz explores the past to the present of that divide. He argues that in the United States, the rise and decline of white people’s racial shaming reflect the rise and decline of white honor. “White skin” and “black skin” are fictions of honor and shame. Americans have lived those fictions for over four hundred years.

To make his argument, Leverenz casts an unusually wide net, from ancient and modern cultures of honor to social, political, and military history to American literature and popular culture.

He highlights the convergence of whiteness and honor in the United States from the antebellum period to the present. The Civil War, the civil rights movement, and the election of Barack Obama represent racial progress; the Tea Party movement represents the latest recoil.

From exploring African American narratives to examining a 2009 episode of Hardball—in which two white commentators restore their honor by mocking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder after he called Americans “cowards” for not talking more about race—Leverenz illustrates how white honor has prompted racial shaming and humiliation. The United States became a nation-state in which light-skinned people declared themselves white. The fear masked by white honor surfaces in such classics of American literature as The Scarlet Letter and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and in the U.S. wars against the Barbary pirates from 1783 to 1815 and the Iraqi insurgents from 2003 to the present. John McCain’s Faith of My Fathers is used to frame the 2008 presidential campaign as white honor’s last national stand.

Honor Bound concludes by probing the endless attempts in 2009 and 2010 to preserve white honor through racial shaming, from the “birthers” and Tea Party protests to Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” in Congress and the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. at the front door of his own home. Leverenz is optimistic that, in the twenty-first century, racial shaming is itself becoming shameful.

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Huckleberry Finn as Idol and Target
The Functions of Criticism in Our Time
Jonathan Arac
University of Wisconsin Press, 1997

If racially offensive epithets are banned on CNN air time and in the pages of USA Today, Jonathan Arac asks, shouldn’t a fair hearing be given to those who protest their use in an eighth-grade classroom? Placing Mark Twain’s comic masterpiece, Huckleberry Finn, in the context of long-standing American debates about race and culture, Jonathan Arac has written a work of scholarship in the service of citizenship.
     Huckleberry Finn, Arac points out, is America’s most beloved book, assigned in schools more than any other work because it is considered both the “quintessential American novel” and “an important weapon against racism.” But when some parents, students, and teachers have condemned the book’s repeated use of the word “nigger,” their protests have been vehemently and often snidely countered by cultural authorities, whether in the universities or in the New York Times and the Washington Post. The paradoxical result, Arac contends, is to reinforce racist structures in our society and to make a sacred text of an important book that deserves thoughtful reading and criticism. Arac does not want to ban Huckleberry Finn, but to provide a context for fairer, fuller, and better-informed debates.
     Arac shows how, as the Cold War began and the Civil Rights movement took hold, the American critics Lionel Trilling, Henry Nash Smith, and Leo Marx transformed the public image of Twain’s novel from a popular “boy’s book” to a central document of American culture. Huck’s feelings of brotherhood with the slave Jim, it was implied, represented all that was right and good in American culture and democracy. Drawing on writings by novelists, literary scholars, journalists, and historians, Arac revisits the era of the novel’s setting in the 1840s, the period in the 1880s when Twain wrote and published the book, and the post–World War II era, to refute many deeply entrenched assumptions about Huckleberry Finn and its place in cultural history, both nationally and globally. Encompassing discussion of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Ellison, Archie Bunker, James Baldwin, Shelley Fisher Fishkin, and Mark Fuhrman, Arac’s book is trenchant, lucid, and timely.

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Inventing Black Women
African American Women Poets and Self-Representation, 1877–2000
Ajuan Maria Mance
University of Tennessee Press, 2008
Inventing Black Women fills important gaps in our understanding of how African American women poets have resisted those conventional notions of gender and race that limit the visibility of Black female subjects. The first historical and thematic survey of African American women's poetry, this book examines the key developments that have shaped the growing body of poems by and about Black women over the nearly 125 years since the end of slavery and Reconstruction, as it offers incisive readings of individual works by important poets such as Alice B. Neal, Maggie Pogue Johnson, Alice Dunbar Nelson, Sonia Sanchez, Lucille Clifton, Audre Lorde, and many others.

Ajuan Maria Mance establishes that the history of African American women's poetry revolves around the struggle of the Black female poet against two marginalizing forces: the widespread association of womanhood with the figure of the middle-class, white female; and the similar association of Blackness with the figure of the African American male. In so doing, she looks closely at the major trends in Black women's poetry during each of four critical moments in African American literary history: the post- Reconstruction era from 1877 to 1910; the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s; the Black Arts Movement from 1965 to 1975; and the late twentieth century from 1975 to 2000.

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Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson
Race, Conflict and Culture
Susan Gillman and Forrest Robinson, eds.
Duke University Press, 1990
This collection seeks to place Pudd’nhead Wilson—a neglected, textually fragmented work of Mark Twain’s—in the context of contemporary critical approaches to literary studies. The editors’ introduction argues the virtues of using Pudd’nhead Wilson as a teaching text, a case study in many of the issues presently occupying literary criticism: issues of history and the uses of history, of canon formation, of textual problematics, and finally of race, class, and gender.

In a variety of ways the essays build arguments out of, not in spite of, the anomalies, inconsistencies, and dead ends in the text itself. Such wrinkles and gaps, the authors find, are the symptoms of an inconclusive, even evasive, but culturally illuminating struggle to confront and resolve difficult questions bearing on race and sex. Such fresh, intellectually enriching perspectives on the novel arise directly from the broad-based interdisciplinary foundations provided by the participating scholars. Drawing on a wide variety of critical methodologies, the essays place the novel in ways that illuminate the world in which it was produced and that further promise to stimulate further study.

Contributors. Michael Cowan, James M. Cox, Susan Gillman, Myra Jehlen, Wilson Carey McWilliams, George E. Marcus, Carolyn Porter, Forrest Robinson, Michael Rogin, John Carlos Rowe, John Schaar, Eric Sundquist

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Migrating Fictions
Gender, Race, and Citizenship in U.S. Internal Displacements
Abigail G. H. Manzella
The Ohio State University Press, 2018
Winner, 2021 Society for the Study of American Women Writers Book Award
Winner, 2021 CCCC Outstanding Book Award


Migrating Fictions analyzes the role of race, gender, and citizenship in the major internal displacements of the 20th century in history and in narrative. Surveying the particular tactics employed by the United States during the Great Migration, the Dust Bowl, the Japanese American incarceration, and the migrant labor of the Southwest, Abigail G. H. Manzella reveals how the country’s past is imbued with governmentally (en)forced movements that diminished access to full citizenship rights for the laboring class, people of color, and women.
 
This work is the first book-length study to examine all of these movements together along with their literature, including Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Sanora Babb’s Whose Names Are Unknown, Julie Otsuka’s When the Emperor Was Divine, Helena María Viramontes’s Under the Feet of Jesus, and Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones. Manzella shows how the United States’ history of spatial colonization within its own borders extends beyond isolated incidents into a pattern based on ideology about nation-building, citizenship, and labor. This book seeks to theorize a Thirdspace, an alternate location for social justice that acknowledges the precarity of the internally displaced person.
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The Necropolitical Theater
Race and Immigration on the Contemporary Spanish Stage
Jeffrey K. Coleman
Northwestern University Press, 2020
The Necropolitical Theater: Race and Immigration on the Contemporary Spanish Stage demonstrates how theatrical production in Spain since the early 1990s has reflected national anxieties about immigration and race. Jeffrey K. Coleman argues that Spain has developed a “necropolitical theater” that casts the non-European immigrant as fictionalized enemy—one whose nonwhiteness is incompatible with Spanish national identity and therefore poses a threat to the very Europeanness of Spain. The fate of the immigrant in the necropolitical theater is death, either physical or metaphysical, which preserves the status quo and provides catharsis for the spectator faced with the notion of racial diversity. Marginalization, forced assimilation, and physical death are outcomes suffered by Latin American, North African, and sub-Saharan African characters, respectively, and in these differential outcomes determined by skin color
Coleman identifies an inherent racial hierarchy informed by the legacies of colonization and religious intolerance.
 
Drawing on theatrical texts, performances, legal documents, interviews, and critical reviews, this book challenges Spanish theater to develop a new theatrical space. Jeffrey K. Coleman proposes a “convivial theater” that portrays immigrants as contributors to the Spanish state and better represents the multicultural reality of the nation today.
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The Nigrescent Beyond
Mexico, the United States, and the Psychic Vanishing of Blackness
Ricardo A. Wilson II
Northwestern University Press, 2020
Despite New Spain’s significant participation in the early transatlantic slave trade, the collective imagination of the Mexican nation evolved in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to understand itself as devoid of a black presence. In The Nigrescent Beyond, Ricardo Wilson proposes a framework for understanding this psychic vanishing of blackness and thinks through how it can be used both to productively unsettle contemporary multicultural and postracial discourses within the United States and to further the interrogations of being and blackness within the larger field of black studies.

Wilson models a practice of reading that honors the disruptive possibilities offered by an ever-present awareness of that which lies, irretrievable, beyond the horizon of vanishing itself. In doing so, he engages with historical accounts detailing maroon activities in early New Spain, contemporary coverage of the push to make legible Afro-Mexican identities, the electronic archives of the Obama presidency, and the work of Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora, Octavio Paz, Ivan Van Sertima, Miguel Covarrubias, Steven Spielberg, and Colson Whitehead, among others.
 
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Performing Whitely in the Postcolony
Afrikaners in South African Theatrical and Public Life
Megan Lewis
University of Iowa Press, 2016
What does it mean to perform whiteness in the postcolonial era? To answer this question—crucial for understanding the changing meanings of race in the twenty-first century—Megan Lewis examines the ways that members of South Africa’s Afrikaner minority have performed themselves into, around, and out of power from the colonial period to the postcolony. The nation’s first European settlers and in the twentieth century the architects of apartheid, since 1994 Afrikaners have been citizens of a multicultural, multilingual democracy. How have they enacted their whiteness in the past, and how do they do so now when their privilege has been deflated?

Performing Whitely examines the multiple speech acts, political acts, and theatrical acts of the Afrikaner volk or nation in theatrical and public life, including pageants, museum sites, film, and popular music as well as theatrical productions. Lewis explores the diverse ways in which Afrikaners perform whitely, and the tactics they use, including nostalgia, melodrama, queering, abjection, and kitsch. She first investigates the way that apartheid’s architects leveraged whiteness in support of their nation-building efforts in the early twentieth century. In addition to re-enacting national pilgrimages of colonial-era migrations and building massive monuments at home, Afrikaner nationalists took their show to the United States, staging critical events of the Boer War at the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. A case study of the South African experience, Performing Whitely also offers parables for global whitenesses in the postcolonial era.
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Queering the Color Line
Race and the Invention of Homosexuality in American Culture
Siobhan B. Somerville
Duke University Press, 2000
Queering the Color Line transforms previous understandings of how homosexuality was “invented” as a category of identity in the United States beginning in the late nineteenth century. Analyzing a range of sources, including sexology texts, early cinema, and African American literature, Siobhan B. Somerville argues that the emerging understanding of homosexuality depended on the context of the black/white “color line,” the dominant system of racial distinction during this period. This book thus critiques and revises tendencies to treat race and sexuality as unrelated categories of analysis, showing instead that race has historically been central to the cultural production of homosexuality.
At about the same time that the 1896 Supreme Court Plessy v. Ferguson decision hardened the racialized boundary between black and white, prominent trials were drawing the public’s attention to emerging categories of sexual identity. Somerville argues that these concurrent developments were not merely parallel but in fact inextricably interrelated and that the discourses of racial and sexual “deviance” were used to reinforce each other’s terms. She provides original readings of such texts as Havelock Ellis’s late nineteenth-century work on “sexual inversion,” the 1914 film A Florida Enchantment, the novels of Pauline E. Hopkins, James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, and Jean Toomer’s fiction and autobiographical writings, including Cane. Through her analyses of these texts and her archival research, Somerville contributes to the growing body of scholarship that focuses on discovering the intersections of gender, race, and sexuality.
Queering the Color Line will have broad appeal across disciplines including African American studies, gay and lesbian studies, literary criticism, cultural studies, cinema studies, and gender studies.
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Race and Displacement
Nation, Migration, and Identity in the Twenty-First Century
Edited by Maha Marouan and Merinda Simmons
University of Alabama Press, 2013
Race and Displacement captures a timely set of discussions about the roles of race in displacement, forced migrations, nation and nationhood, and the way continuous movements of people challenge fixed racial definitions.
 
The multifaceted approach of the essays in Race and Displacement allows for nuanced discussions of race and displacement in expansive ways, exploring those issues in transnational and global terms. The contributors not only raise questions about race and displacement as signifying tropes and lived experiences; they also offer compelling approaches to conversations about race, displacement, and migration both inside and outside the academy. Taken together, these essays become a case study in dialogues across disciplines, providing insight from scholars in diaspora studies, postcolonial studies, literary theory, race theory, gender studies, and migration studies.
 
The contributors to this volume use a variety of analytical and disciplinary methodologies to track multiple articulations of how race is encountered and defined. The book is divided by editors Maha Marouan and Merinda Simmons into four sections: “Race and Nation” considers the relationships between race and corporality in transnational histories of migration using literary and oral narratives. Essays in “Race and Place” explore the ways spatial mobility in the twentieth century influences and transforms notions of racial and cultural identity.  Essays in “Race and Nationality” address race and its configuration in national policy, such as racial labeling, federal regulations, and immigration law. In the last section, “Race and the Imagination” contributors explore the role imaginative projections play in shaping understandings of race.
 
Together, these essays tackle the question of how we might productively engage race and place in new sociopolitical contexts.  Tracing the roles of "race" from the corporeal and material to the imaginative, the essays chart new ways that concepts of origin, region, migration, displacement, and diasporic memory create understandings of race in literature, social performance, and national policy.
 
Contributors: Regina N. Barnett, Walter Bosse, Ashon T. Crawley, Matthew Dischinger, Melanie Fritsh, Jonathan Glover, Delia Hagen, Deborah Katz, Kathrin Kottemann, Abigail G.H. Manzella, Yumi Pak, Cassander L. Smith,  Lauren Vedal
 
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Race and Repast
Foodscapes in Twentieth-Century Southern Literature
Urszula Niewiadomska-Flis
University of Arkansas Press, 2022
Race and Repast: Foodscapes in Twentieth-Century Southern Literature examines the literary foodscapes of the American South—from Jim Crow–era kitchens where White and Black Southerners reacted against racial mores, to the public dining spaces where Southerners probed the limits of racial identity, to the lunch counters that became touchstones of the Black Freedom movement. Mining literary texts by iconic authors like Ernest Gaines and Walker Percy to demonstrate that “food reflects and refracts power,” Urszula Niewiadomska-Flis wields food studies as a revelatory lens through which to view a radically segregated society that was often on the cusp of violence. Niewiadomska-Flis also provides a rich and succinct introduction to scholarship in Southern studies and food studies, making Race and Repast a compelling read that offers countless insights to experts as well as readers exploring these areas of research for the first time.
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Race and Time
American Women's Poetics from Antislavery to Racial Modernity
Janet Gray
University of Iowa Press, 2004
Race and Time urges our attention to women’s poetry in considering the cultural history of race. Building on close readings of well known and less familiar poets—including Elizabeth Margaret Chandler, Sarah Louisa Forten, Hannah Flagg Gould, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Sarah Piatt, Mary Eliza Tucker Lambert, Sarah Josepha Hale, Eliza Follen, and Mary Mapes Dodge—Gray traces tensions in women’s literary culture from the era of abolitionism to the rise of the Plantation tradition. She devotes a chapter to children’s verse, arguing that racial stereotypes work as “nonsense” that masks conflicts in the construction of white childhood. A compilation of the poems cited, most of which are difficult to find elsewhere, is included as an appendix.

Gray clarifies the cultural roles women’s poetry played in the nineteenth-century United States and also reveals that these poems offer a fascinating, dynamic, and diverse field for students of social and cultural history. Gray’s readings provide a rich sense of the contexts in which this poetry is embedded and examine its aesthetic and political vitality in meticulous detail, linking careful explication of the texts with analysis of the history of poetry, canons, literacy, and literary authority.

Race and Time distinguishes itself from other critical studies not only through its searching, in-depth readings but also through its sustained attention to less known poets and its departure from a Dickinson-centered model. Most significantly, it offers a focus on race, demonstrating how changes in both the U.S. racial structure and women’s place in public culture set the terms for change in how women poets envisioned the relationship between poetry and social power.

Gray’s work makes contributions to several fields of study: poetry, U.S. literary history and American studies, women’s studies, African American studies and whiteness studies, children’s literature, and cultural studies. While placing the works of figures who have been treated elsewhere (e.g., Dickinson and Harper) into revealing new relationships, Race and Time does much to open interdisciplinary discussion of unfamiliar works.
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Race, Manhood, and Modernism in America
The Short Story Cycles of Sherwood Anderson and Jean Toomer
Mark Whalan
University of Tennessee Press, 2007
Race, Manhood, and Modernism in America offers the first extended comparison between American writers Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941) and Jean Toomer (1894-1967), examining their engagement with the ideas of “Young American” writers and critics such as Van Wyck Brooks, Paul Rosenfeld, and Waldo Frank. This distinctively modernist school was developing unique visions of how race, gender, and region would be transformed as America entered an age of mass consumerism.

Focusing on Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio (1919), and Toomer’s Cane (1923), Race, Manhood, and Modernism in America brings Anderson and Toomer together in a way that allows for a thorough historical and social contextualization that is often missing from assessments of these two literary talents and of modernism as a whole. The book suggests how the gay subcultures of Chicago and the traumatic events of the Great War provoked Anderson’s anxieties over the future of male gender identity, anxieties that are reflected in Winesburg, Ohio. Mark Whalan discusses Anderson’s primitivistic attraction to African American communities and his ambivalent attitudes toward race, attitudes that were embedded in the changing cultural and gendered landscape of mass mechanical production.

The book next examines how Toomer aimed to broaden the racial basis of American cultural nationalism, often inspired by the same cultural critics who had influenced Anderson. He rejected the ethnographically based model of tapping the “buried cultures” of ethnic minorities developed by his mentor, Waldo Frank, and also parted with the “folk” aesthetic endorsed by intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance. Instead, Toomer'’ monumental Cane turned to discourses of physical culture, machine technology, and illegitimacy as ways of conceiving of a new type of manhood that refashioned commonplace notions of racial identity.

Taken together, these discussions provide a fresh, interdisciplinary appraisal of the importance of race to “Young America,” suggest provocative new directions for scholarship, and give new insight into some of the most crucial texts of U.S. interracial modernism.


Mark Whalan is a senior lecturer in American literature and culture at the University of Exeter. He is the editor of The Letters of Jean Toomer, 1919-1924, and his articles have appeared in the Journal of American Studies, Modernism/Modernity, Studies in American Fiction, and Modern Fiction Studies.


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Relative Races
Genealogies of Interracial Kinship in Nineteenth-Century America
Brigitte Fielder
Duke University Press, 2020
In Relative Races, Brigitte Fielder presents an alternative theory of how race is ascribed. Contrary to notions of genealogies by which race is transmitted from parents to children, the examples Fielder discusses from nineteenth-century literature, history, and popular culture show how race can follow other directions: Desdemona becomes less than fully white when she is smudged with Othello's blackface, a white woman becomes Native American when she is adopted by a Seneca family, and a mixed-race baby casts doubt on the whiteness of his mother. Fielder shows that the genealogies of race are especially visible in the racialization of white women, whose whiteness often depends on their ability to reproduce white family and white supremacy. Using black feminist and queer theories, Fielder presents readings of personal narratives, novels, plays, stories, poems, and images to illustrate how interracial kinship follows non-heteronormative, non-biological, and non-patrilineal models of inheritance in nineteenth-century literary culture.
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Satire or Evasion?
Black Perspectives on Huckleberry Finn
James S. Leonard, Thomas A. Tenney and Thadious M. Davis, eds.
Duke University Press, 1992
Though one of America’s best known and loved novels, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has often been the object of fierce controversy because of its racist language and reliance on racial stereotypes. This collection of fifteen essays by prominent African American scholars and critics examines the novel’s racist elements and assesses the degree to which Twain’s ironies succeed or fail to turn those elements into a satirical attack on racism.
Ranging from the laudatory to the openly hostile, these essays include personal impressions of Huckleberry Finn, descriptions of classroom experience with the book, evaluations of its ironic and allegorical aspects, explorations of its nineteenth-century context, and appraisal of its effects on twentieth-century African American writers. Among the issues the authors contend with are Twain’s pervasive use of the word “nigger,” his portrayal of the slave Jim according to the conventions of the minstrel show “darky,” and the thematic chaos created by the “evasion” depicted in the novel’s final chapters.
Sure to provoke thought and stir debate, Satire or Evasion? provides a variety of new perspectives on one of this country’s most troubling classics.

Contributors. Richard K. Barksdale, Bernard W. Bell, Mary Kemp Davis, Peaches M. Henry, Betty Harris Jones, Rhett S. Jones, Julius Lester, Donnarae MacCann, Charles H. Nichols, Charles H. Nilon, Arnold Rampersad, David L. Smith, Carmen Dubryan, John H. Wallace, Kenny Jackson Williams, Fredrick Woodard

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Seems Like Murder Here
Southern Violence and the Blues Tradition
Adam Gussow
University of Chicago Press, 2002
Winner of the 2004 C. Hugh Holman Award from the Society for the Study of Southern Literature.

Seems Like Murder Here offers a revealing new account of the blues tradition. Far from mere laments about lost loves and hard times, the blues emerge in this provocative study as vital responses to spectacle lynchings and the violent realities of African American life in the Jim Crow South. With brilliant interpretations of both classic songs and literary works, from the autobiographies of W. C. Handy, David Honeyboy Edwards, and B. B. King to the poetry of Langston Hughes and the novels of Zora Neale Hurston, Seems Like Murder Here will transform our understanding of the blues and its enduring power.
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Slavery in American Children's Literature, 1790-2010
Paula T. Connolly
University of Iowa Press, 2013
Long seen by writers as a vital political force of the nation, children’s literature has been an important means not only of mythologizing a certain racialized past but also, because of its intended audience, of promoting a specific racialized future. Stories about slavery for children have served as primers for racial socialization. This first comprehensive study of slavery in children’s literature, Slavery in American Children’s Literature, 1790–2010, also historicizes the ways generations of authors have drawn upon antebellum literature in their own re-creations of slavery. It examines well-known, canonical works alongside others that have ostensibly disappeared from contemporary cultural knowledge but have nonetheless both affected and reflected the American social consciousness in the creation of racialized images.

Beginning with abolitionist and proslavery views in antebellum children’s literature, Connolly examines how successive generations reshaped the genres of the slave narrative, abolitionist texts, and plantation novels to reflect the changing contexts of racial politics in America. From Reconstruction and the end of the nineteenth century, to the early decades of the twentieth century, to the civil rights era, and into the twenty-first century, these antebellum genres have continued to find new life in children’s literature—in, among other forms, neoplantation novels, biographies, pseudoabolitionist adventures, and neo-slave narratives.

As a literary history of how antebellum racial images have been re-created or revised for new generations, Slavery in American Children’s Literature ultimately offers a record of the racial mythmaking of the United States from the nation’s beginning to the present day. 
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Sticky Rice
A Politics of Intraracial Desire
Cynthia Wu
Temple University Press, 2018

Cynthia Wu’s provocative Sticky Rice examines representations of same-sex desires and intraracial intimacies in some of the most widely read pieces of Asian American literature. Analyzing canonical works such as John Okada’s No-No Boy, Monique Truong’s The Book of Salt, H. T. Tsiang’s And China Has Hands, and Lois-Ann Yamanaka’s Blu’s Hanging, as well as Philip Kan Gotanda’s play, Yankee Dawg You Die, Wu considers how male relationships in these texts blur the boundaries among the homosocial, the homoerotic, and the homosexual in ways that lie beyond our concepts of modern gay identity.

The “sticky rice” of Wu’s title is a term used in gay Asian American culture to describe Asian American men who desire other Asian American men. The bonds between men addressed in Sticky Rice show how the thoughts and actions founded by real-life intraracially desiring Asian-raced men can inform how we read the refusal of multiple normativities in Asian Americanist discourse. Wu lays bare the trope of male same-sex desires that grapple with how Asian America’s internal divides can be resolved in order to resist assimilation.

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The Stowe Debate
Rhetorical Strategies in "Uncle Tom's Cabin"
Mason I. Lowance
University of Massachusetts Press, 1994
This collection of essays addresses the continuing controversy surrounding Uncle Tom's Cabin. On publication in 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel sparked a national debate about the nature of slavery and the character of those who embraced it. Since then, critics have used the book to illuminate a host of issues dealing with race, gender, politics, and religion in antebellum America. They have also argued about Stowe's rhetorical strategies and the literary conventions she appropriated to give her book such unique force.

The thirteen contributors to this volume enter these debates from a variety of critical perspectives. They address questions of language and ideology, the tradition of the sentimental novel, biblical influences, and the rhetoric of antislavery discourse. As much as they disagree on various points, they share a keen interest in the cultural work that texts can do and an appreciation of the enduring power of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
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Strange Future
Pessimism and the 1992 Los Angeles Riots
Min Hyoung Song
Duke University Press, 2005
Sometime near the start of the 1990s, the future became a place of national decline. The United States had entered a period of great anxiety fueled by the shrinking of the white middle class, the increasingly visible misery of poor urban blacks, and the mass immigration of nonwhites. Perhaps more than any other event marking the passage through these dark years, the 1992 Los Angeles riots have sparked imaginative and critical works reacting to this profound pessimism. Focusing on a wide range of these creative works, Min Hyoung Song shows how the L.A. riots have become a cultural-literary event—an important reference and resource for imagining the social problems plaguing the United States and its possible futures.

Song considers works that address the riots and often the traumatic place of the Korean American community within them: the independent documentary Sa-I-Gu (Korean for April 29, the date the riots began), Chang-rae Lee’s novel Native Speaker, the commercial film Strange Days, and the experimental drama of Anna Deavere Smith, among many others. He describes how cultural producers have used the riots to examine the narrative of national decline, manipulating language and visual elements, borrowing and refashioning familiar tropes, and, perhaps most significantly, repeatedly turning to metaphors of bodily suffering to convey a sense of an unraveling social fabric. Song argues that these aesthetic experiments offer ways of revisiting the traumas of the past in order to imagine more survivable futures.

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Strangers in the Land
Blacks, Jews, Post-Holocaust America
Eric J. Sundquist
Harvard University Press, 2005

In a culture deeply divided along ethnic lines, the idea that the relationship between blacks and Jews was once thought special—indeed, critical to the cause of civil rights—might seem strange. Yet the importance of blacks for Jews and Jews for blacks in conceiving of themselves as Americans, when both remained outsiders to the privileges of full citizenship, is a matter of voluminous but perplexing record. It is this record, written across the annals of American history and literature, culture and society, that Eric Sundquist investigates. A monumental work of literary criticism and cultural history, Strangers in the Land draws upon politics, sociology, law, religion, and popular culture to illuminate a vital, highly conflicted interethnic partnership over the course of a century.

Sundquist explores how reactions to several interlocking issues—the biblical Exodus, the Holocaust, Zionism, and the state of Israel—became critical to black–Jewish relations. He charts volatile debates over social justice and liberalism, anti-Semitism and racism, through extended analyses of fiction by Bernard Malamud, Paule Marshall, Harper Lee, and William Melvin Kelley, as well as the juxtaposition of authors such as Saul Bellow and John A. Williams, Lori Segal and Anna Deavere Smith, Julius Lester and Philip Roth. Engaging a wide range of thinkers and writers on race, civil rights, the Holocaust, slavery, and related topics, and cutting across disciplines to set works of literature in historical context, Strangers in the Land offers an encyclopedic account of questions central to modern American culture.

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Subjects and Citizens
Nation, Race, and Gender from Oroonoko to Anita Hill
Michael Moon and Cathy N. Davidson, eds.
Duke University Press, 1995
Focusing on intersecting issues of nation, race, and gender, this volume inaugurates new models for American literary and cultural history. Subjects and Citizens reveals the many ways in which a wide range of canonical and non-canonical writing contends with the most crucial social, political, and literary issues of our past and present.

Defining the landscape of the New American literary history, these essays are united by three interrelated concerns: ideas of origin (where does "American literature" begin?), ideas of nation (what does "American literature" mean?), and ideas of race and gender (what does "American literature" include and exclude and how?). Work by writers as diverse as Aphra Behn, James Fenimore Cooper, Edgar Allan Poe, Frances Harper, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Herman Melville, William Faulkner, Harriet Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Bharati Mukherjee, Booker T. Washington, Mark Twain, Kate Chopin, Américo Paredes, and Toni Morrison are discussed from several theoretical perspectives, using a variety of methodologies. Issues of the "frontier" and the "border" as well as those of coloniality and postcoloniality are explored. In each case, these essays emphasize the ideological nature of national identity and, more specifically, the centrality of race and gender to our concept of nationhood.

Collected from recent issues of American Literature, with three new essays added, Subjects and Citizens charts the new directions being taken in American literary studies.

Contributors. Daniel Cooper Alarcón, Lori Askeland, Stephanie Athey, Nancy Bentley, Lauren Berlant, Michele A. Birnbaum, Kristin Carter-Sanborn, Russ Castronovo, Joan Dayan, Julie Ellison, Sander L. Gilman, Karla F. C. Holloway, Annette Kolodny, Barbara Ladd, Lora Romero, Ramón Saldívar, Maggie Sale, Siobhan Senier, Timothy Sweet, Maurice Wallace, Elizabeth Young

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Taboo Subjects
Race, Sex, and Psychoanalysis
Gwen Bergner
University of Minnesota Press, 2005
In American literature, a traumatic scene of racial and sexual awakening - frequently involving photographs, mirrors, or acts of witnessing - often precipitates a character's "discovery" of racial identity. Similarly, in the annals of psychoanalysis, notions of self and sexual identity often arise from visual trauma such as the mirror stage and primal scene. Noting this parallel between specular births of racial and sexual subjectivity, Gwen Bergner uses a comparative analysis of psychoanalytic theory and American literature to develop a theory of racialization - the process through which individuals assume an identity as black or white. Examining the primal scenes of double consciousness in works by Frederick Douglass, William Faulkner, and Toni Morrison, among others, alongside the formative visual traumas of psychoanalytic theory of Lacan and Freud, Taboo Subjects reveals how literature disrupts psychoanalysis's conventional models of race and gender identification, forcing a reconfiguration of many foundational psychoanalytic texts. And from psychoanalysis Bergner derives a critical vocabulary for theorizing racialization as it intersects with sex and gender, for both black and white Americans.
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To Wake the Nations
Race in the Making of American Literature
Eric J. Sundquist
Harvard University Press, 1993

This powerful book argues that white culture in America does not exist apart from black culture. The revolution of the rights of man that established this country collided long ago with the system of slavery, and we have been trying to reestablish a steady course for ourselves ever since. To Wake the Nations is urgent and rousing: we have integrated our buses, schools, and factories, but not the canon of American literature. That is the task Eric Sundquist has assumed in a book that ranges from politics to literature, from Uncle Remus to African American spirituals. But the hallmark of this volume is a sweeping reevaluation of the glory years of American literature—from 1830 to 1930—that shows how white literature and black literature form a single interwoven tradition.

By examining African America’s contested relation to the intellectual and literary forms of white culture, Sundquist reconstructs the main lines of American literary tradition from the decades before the Civil War through the early twentieth century. An opening discussion of Nat Turner’s “Confessions,” recorded by a white man, Thomas Gray, establishes a paradigm for the complexity of meanings that Sundquist uncovers in American literary texts. Focusing on Frederick Douglass’s autobiographical books, Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno, Martin Delany’s novel Blake; or the Huts of America, Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson, Charles Chesnutt’s fiction, and W. E. B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk and Darkwater, Sundquist considers each text against a rich background of history, law, literature, politics, religion, folklore, music, and dance. These readings lead to insights into components of the culture at large: slavery as it intersected with postcolonial revolutionary ideology; literary representations of the legal and political foundations of segregation; and the transformation of elements of African and antebellum folk consciousness into the public forms of American literature.

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Traces, Codes, and Clues
Reading Race in Crime Fiction
Reddy, Maureen T
Rutgers University Press, 2002

Detective fiction featuring white women and people of color such as Barbara Neelys Blanche White and Walter Mosleys Easy Rawlinshas become tremendously popular. Although they are considered "light reading," mysteries also hold important cultural and social "clues." Much recent scholarly work has demonstrated that race is both a cultural fiction not a biological reality and a central organizing principle of experience. Popular writers are likely to reflect the conventions of their own historical situations.

In Traces, Codes, and Clues: Reading Race in Crime Fiction, Maureen T. Reddy explores the ways in which crime fiction manipulates cultural constructions such as race and gender to inscribe dominant cultural discourses. She notes that even those writers who appear to set out to revise outdated conventions repeatedly reproduce the genres most conservative elements. The greatest obstacle to transforming crime fiction, Reddy states, is the fact that the genre itself is deeply embedded in the discourse of white (and male) superiority. There is, therefore, an absolute necessity to break away from that discourse through reversal or other strategies in order to produce work that defies, and thus helps readers to defy, the dominant ideology of race.

      

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WHITE LIBERAL IDENTITY LITER PEDAGOGY
AND CLASSIC AMERICAN REALISM
PHILLIP BARRISH
The Ohio State University Press, 2005


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