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Perspectives on Percival Everett

Keith B. Mitchell

Publication Year: 2013

Percival Everett writes novels, short stories, poetry, and essays, and is one of the most prolific, acclaimed, yet under-examined African American writers working today. Although to date Everett has published eighteen novels, three collections of short fiction, three poetry collections, and one children's book, his work has not garnered the critical attention that it deserves. Perhaps one of the most vexing problems black and white scholars have had in trying to situate Everett's work is that they have found it difficult to "place" him and his work within a prescribed African American literary tradition. Because he happens to be African American, critics have expectations of so-called "authentic" African American fiction; however, his work often thwarts these expectations.


In Perspectives on Percival Everett, scholars engage all of his creative production. On the one hand, Everett is an African American novelist. On the other hand, he pursues subject matters that seemingly have little to do with African American culture. The operative word here is "seemingly"; for as these essays demonstrate, Everett's works falls well within as well as outside of what most critics would deem the African American literary tradition. These essays examine issues of identity, authenticity, and semiotics, in addition to postmodernism and African American and American literary traditions--issues essential to understanding his aesthetic and political concerns.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Front Matter

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

Keith: I would like to acknowledge the amazing folks at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities who, in the summer of 2010, gave me time, space, and tremendous resources to work on this project. I would also like to thank my friends and colleagues in the Department of English at the University of...

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Introduction: Changing the Frame, Framing the Change: The Art of Percival Everett

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pp. ix-xvii

To say that Percival Everett is one of the most accomplished and prolific contemporary African American writers is also to say that Percival Everett is one of the most accomplished and prolific American writers. He is the author of eighteen novels, three collections of short fiction, three collections of poetry...

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Chapter One: “knowledge2 certainty2 = squat2” (re)Thinking Identity and Meaning in Percival Everett’s: The Water Cure

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pp. 3-18

Many of Percival Everett’s works question how identities and perceptions of reality are created in society and expose the inherent flaws that exist within these systems of understanding. For example, in Erasure (2001), Everett’s most critically acclaimed novel, Thelonius Monk Ellison wrestles with the need...

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Chapter Two: “This Strange Juggler’s Game”: Forclusion in Percival Everett’s I Am Not Sidney Poitier

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pp. 19-34

In his short 1991 treatise, “Signing to the Blind,” Percival Everett recounts his experience with Embassy Pictures as they sought to turn his novel Suder (1983) into a motion picture. “Norman Lear’s army,” he states, turned down Sidney Poitier as supporting actor and director of the film because “he was not...

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Chapter Three: Frenzy: Framing Text to Set Discourse in a Cultural Continuum

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pp. 35-59

Percival Everett’s Frenzy (1997), modeled on the storyline of The Bacchae by Euripides, is a postmodern revision of the story of the god of wine, madness, fertility, and ecstasy, Dionysos.1 The narrator of Everett’s novel informs us that in the midst of the “frenzied Bakkhanal,”2 the story of Dionysos...

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Chapter Four: The Preservationist Impulse in Percival Everett’s: “True Romance”

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pp. 60-74

Readers may easily relate to the geographical and imaginative landscapes depicted in Percival Everett’s 2004 short-story collection, Damned if I Do, which, on the whole, are set in locales in the southwestern United States. The story collection displays characters striving to reach an appropriate balance...

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Chapter Five: The Mind-Body Split in American Desert: Sythesizing Everett’s Critique of Race, Religion, and Science

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pp. 75-93

At least since Descartes wrote “I think therefore I am,” Western philosophy has explored the mind-body problem. The relationship of the mind and the body presents the challenge of distinguishing between the world of ideas and the material forms of existence. In his famous account, Descartes severs...

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Chapter Six: A Bird of a Different Feather: Blues, Jazz, and the Difficult Journey to the Self in Percival Everett’s Suder

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pp. 94-112

Much of the recent critical interest in Percival Everett’s literary contribution focuses on the author’s seemingly easy ability to move beyond race in his novels. Indeed, Everett indirectly resists being identified as any specific type of writer, even an African American writer, as he explains, “I don’t want to talk...

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Chapter Seven: “Do you mind if we make Craig Suder white?”: From Stereotype to Cosmopolitan to Grotesque in Percival Everett’s Suder

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pp. 113-125

Nobody writes about Suder.1 Percival Everett’s first novel, published in 1983, seems to attract less critical attention than the rest of his considerable body of work, and this is quite an assertion when taking into account how little critical attention his work receives in general. The reasons for this novel...

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Chapter Eight: Charting the Body: Percival Everett’s Corporeal Landscapes in re: f (gesture)

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pp. 126-138

Percival Everett’s poems celebrating the body in re: f (gesture) (2006) refresh our perceptions and revel in the semantic and sonic impact of language even as they upset our expectations. Instead of communicating meaning in the transparent ways we may anticipate, Everett’s poems figure forth fragments of...

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Chapter Nine: When the Text Becomes the Stage: Percival Everett’s Performance Turn in For Her Dark Skin

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pp. 139-151

In the pantheon of Greek tragedies, Euripides’s Medea stands as a preeminent rendering of desire, scorn, and revenge and continues to enthrall writers, audiences, and academics alike as witnessed through the periodic reinterpretations, translations, and updated performances. With For Her Dark Skin (1990), Percival...

Works Cited

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pp. 152-158

Contributors

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pp. 159-161

Index

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pp. 162-167


E-ISBN-13: 9781621039181
E-ISBN-10: 161703682X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617036828

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Margaret Walker Alexander Series in African American Studies