Abstract

The frequent critical evocation of expatriate novelist Chester Himes as an icon of social realist protest in 20th century African American literature has the customary effect of obliterating exactly those questions of poetic figurality by which his complex themes are able to surface so jarringly. This essay explores several of Himes' writings, investigating operations of tonality and timbre in their linguistic fabric. It argues that the darkly ironic opacity that characterizes much of what is unique about Himes as an artist also performs an unrelentingly sharp critique of the crass racialism, identity gamesmanship and commercialism that so pervasively defines his U.S.— doing so in ways that conceptually outstrip the flatly oppositional idioms of social realism to which his work is so often assigned.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-658X
Print ISSN
0026-7724
Pages
pp. 846-872
Launched on MUSE
2006-01-03
Open Access
No
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