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Black Regions of the Imagination

African American Writers between the Nation and the World

Eve E. Dunbar

Publication Year: 2012

Focusing on literature produced between the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement (1930-1970), in Black Regions of the Imagination explores how Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Chester Himes and James Baldwin consistently represent black Americans within both national and international settings. The book sets forth "the region" as a way to make sense of the paradigmatic anti-national narrative concerns of these black writers who set about to both document and re-imagine a set of "homegrown" racial experiences within a more worldly framework. In the writings of the selected authors one sees the constant coupling of national and international settings and concerns, disallowing the privileging of the national or the international in an attempt to escape the ever-marginalizing parochialism dictated by mid-20th century American segregation. Moreover, ethnography is the stylistic optic utilized by these writers to represent issues of proximity and distance implied by the simultaneous presentation of the national and international. Through the employment of ethnographic techniques such as participant-observation, thick description, and an attention to the social significance of American cultural practices (namely racism), these mid-20th century black Americans signify on blackness in new ways.

Published by: Temple University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Preface

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pp. ix-xiii

After making the nearly eight-hour flight from New York’s Kennedy Airport to Paris’s Charles de Gaulle International Airport, I was plagued by the sneaking suspicion that everyone in Paris spoke English, but none of them would do so with me. My suspicions were...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-xvii

I owe much to the people and institutions that generously helped and supported me through the writing of this book. I am sure that I will forget some integral person, so please forgive me in advance and know that I am truly grateful to all who played a part. First, I would...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-15

On August 25, 1970, anthropologist Margaret Mead and writer James Baldwin met for the first time to have three recorded conversations, totaling more than seven hours of tape that, once transcribed, would compose the book A Rap on Race (1971). The Mead and...

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1. Becoming American through Ethnographic Writing: Zora Neale Hurston and the Performance of Ethnography

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pp. 16-57

In 1954, Zora Neale Hurston admitted to her friend William Bradford Huie that she was gripped by the desire to puke when she read the works of writers such as Richard Wright because she felt they pandered to the white desire for black pathology...

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2. Escape through Ethnography: Literary Regionalism and the Image of Nonracial Alignment in Richard Wright’s Travel Writing

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pp. 58-90

“I am a rootless man,” Richard Wright declares very early in White Man, Listen! (1957). It is a simple utterance meant to capture the tie between his statelessness and his humanity. “I declare unabashedly that I like and even cherish the state of...

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3. Deconstructing the Romance of Ethnography: Queering Knowledge in James Baldwin’s Another Country

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pp. 91-125

In August 1970, sitting across from Margaret Mead, James Baldwin recalls a run-in with the employees of a Tallahassee bank who had refused to cash his $250 check. Three months into researching a story on the American South, Baldwin was broke...

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4. Ethnography of the Absurd: Chester Himes’s Detective Fiction and Counterimages of Black Life

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pp. 126-152

In January 1957, Marcel Duhamel approached Chester Himes to write a crime novel for the Gallimard publishing house’s Série noir. Himes, who, like so many of his African American contemporaries, had left the United States four years earlier to live in...

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Conclusion: Look Down! The Black Arts Affirmation of Place and the Refusal to Translate

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pp. 153-171

More than a decade after the landmark desegregation case of Brown v. Board of Education (1954), three years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and in the midst of the Vietnam War, on July 29, 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order...

Notes

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pp. 173-192

Bibliography

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pp. 193-203

Index

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pp. 205-212

About the Author

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pp. 213-


E-ISBN-13: 9781439909447
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439909430

Page Count: 214
Publication Year: 2012

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Subject Headings

  • American literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • American literature -- African American authors.
  • Ethnology in literature.
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