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African American Male, Writing, and Difference, The

A Polycentric Approach to African American Literature, Criticism, and History

W. Lawrence Hogue

Publication Year: 2003

In this wide-ranging analysis, W. Lawrence Hogue argues that African American life and history is more diverse than even African American critics generally acknowledge. Focusing on literary representations of African American males in particular, Hogue examines works by James Weldon Johnson, William Melvin Kelley, Charles Wright, Nathan Heard, Clarence Major, James Earl Hardy, and Don Belton to see how they portray middle-class, Christian, subaltern, voodoo, urban, jazz/blues, postmodern, and gay African American cultures. Hogue shows that this polycentric perspective can move beyond a “racial uplift” approach to African American literature and history and help paint a clearer picture of the rich diversity of African American life and culture.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v

Contents

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pp. vii-

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Preface

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pp. ix-xii

The narrative of the African American sociopolitical mission of racial uplift and its subsequent mainstream American support are dominant in the lives of African Americans, especially the middle class. The narrative advocates certain mainstream values such as middle-class respectability, the Enlightenment idea of...

Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-

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Chapter One. Introduction: Approaching African American Life, History, Literature, and Criticism Polycentrically

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pp. 1-11

In the United States, the African American is constituted in a white/black binary of signification that defines whites as normative and superior and that represents blacks as victim, as inferior, as devalued Other, or, since the 1960s, as the Same as whites. This binary, which can be traced to the European Renaissance,...

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Chapter Two. History, the White/Black Binary, and the Construction of the African American as Other

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pp. 13-33

In chapter 1, I discussed the African American as being constituted within an unequal white/black binary system. In this binary system, which is reinforced by the cultural, social, political, and economic institutions and apparatuses of the United States and Western civilization, the African American is represented only...

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Chapter Three. The White/Black Binary and the African American Sociopolitical Mission of Racial Uplift

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pp. 35-65

In the previous chapter, I discussed at length how the African American in the United States is constituted in a white/black binary of signification that represents white as normative and superior and that defines black as either inferior, as devalued Other, or as the Same. I also traced the beginning of this binary to...

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Chapter Four. Finding Freedom in Sameness: James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man

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pp. 67-92

Today, James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man is defined as an archetypal text in the canon of African American literature. The positioning of The Autobiography as a pivotal canonical text did not happen in 1912 when it was published anonymously, or in 1927 when it was reissued bearing...

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Chapter Five. Disrupting the White/Black Binary: William Melvin Kelley’s A Different Drummer

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pp. 93-117

William Melvin Kelley’s A Different Drummer disrupts/challenges the white/ black binary of signification and Western rationalism. As a consequence, its revolutionary zeal—its disruption of the white/black binary and its reconfiguration of the African American—puts it outside the aesthetic expectations, the political...

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Chapter Six. Exposing Limiting, Racialized Heterological Critical Sites: An Existential Reading of Charles Wright’s The Messenger

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pp. 119-145

Twenty-five years before Farrar, Straus and Company published Charles Wright’s The Messenger, in 1963, Librairie Gallimard of France published Jean-Paul Sartre’s novel, Nausea, in 1938, and two years before the publication of Wright’s The Messenger, Alfred A. Knopf published Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer, in 1961. In 2003,...

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Chapter Seven. The Blue Idiom Lifestyle, Counter-Hegemony, and Clarence Major’s Dirty Bird Blues

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pp. 147-170

The blues idiom as an expressive musical form and as a way of life has been a part of African American life since the times of slavery. It represents a definition of life that is different from that of mainstream, middle-class, Christian American life. In this polycentric representation of African American literature, it becomes...

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Chapter Eight. Naming the Subaltern: The Swinging Life and Nathan Heard’s Howard Street

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pp. 171-197

When Dial Press published the hardback edition of Nathan Heard’s Howard Street in 1968, there was no advanced publicity, and unlike racial uplift novels/autobiographies such as James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man and Richard Wright’s Black Boy, it did not carry laudatory blurbs by America’s...

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Chapter Nine. Identity Politics, Sexual Fluidity, and James Earl Hardy’s B-Boy Blues

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pp. 199-224

James Earl Hardy’s B-Boy Blues, published in 1994, is linked politically to what Steven Seidman calls a “politics of interest” or “identity politics” (116–18), or to what Gayatri Spivak calls “identity claim” (qtd. in Landry and MacLean 294). This refers to a politics organized around narrowly defined grievances and...

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Chapter Ten. Voodoo, A Different African American Experience, and Don Belton’s Almost Midnight

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pp. 225-251

In 1986, when William Morrow published Don Belton’s Almost Midnight, African American literature was in the midst of a renaissance, especially among black women writers. In 1982, Alice Walker received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for The Color Purple, which sold more than four million copies and was...

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Chapter Eleven. Conclusion

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pp. 253-255

As I have discussed in detail in the previous chapters, in the United States, until the 1960s, the white/black binary, the African American sociopolitical mission of racial uplift, the historical emancipatory African American narrative, and the canon of African American literature defined African American social reality. Because...

Notes

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pp. 257-271

Works Cited

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pp. 273-281

Index

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pp. 283-291


E-ISBN-13: 9780791487006
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791456934
Print-ISBN-10: 0791456935

Page Count: 291
Publication Year: 2003

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • African American men -- Intellectual life.
  • Difference (Psychology) in literature.
  • American literature -- African American authors -- History and criticism
  • American literature -- Male authors -- History and criticism.
  • African American men in literature.
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