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Judgment, Cataclysm, and Resistance in the Regional Imaginary
While John Winthrop might have famously uttered the phrase “city upon a hill” on the way to Massachusetts, the strands of millennialism and exceptionalism that remain so central to U.S. political discourse are now dominated by eschatological visions that have emerged from the particular historical experiences of the U.S. South. Despite the strategic exploitation of this reality by political communicators, scholars in the humanities have paid little attention to the eschatological visions offered by southern religious culture. Fortunately, writers and artists have not ignored such matters; compared to their academic counterparts, southern novelists have been far better attuned to a southern apocalyptic imaginary—a field of reference, drawn from the cosmology of southern evangelical Protestantism, that maps the apocalyptic possibilities of cataclysm, judgment, deliverance, and even revolution onto the landscape of the region. Apocalypse South rectifies the omissions in existing scholarship by interrogating the role of apocalyptic discourse in selected works of fiction by four southern writers—William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Randall Kenan, and Dorothy Allison. In doing so, it reinvigorates discussions of religion in southern literary scholarship and introduces a new element in the ongoing investigation into how regional identities function in notions of national mission and American exceptionalism. Engaging concerns of religion, race, sexuality, and community in fiction from the 1930s to the present, Apocalypse South offers a new conceptual framework for considering what has long been considered “southern Gothic literature”—a framework less concerned with the conventions of a particular literary genre than with the ways in which literature exposes and even tries to make sense of the contradictions within cultures.
Langston Hughes was one of the most important American writers of his generation, and one of the most versatile, producing poetry, fiction, drama, and autobiography. In this innovative study, R. Baxter Miller explores Hughes's life and art to enlarge our appreciation of his contribution to American letters.
Arguing that readers often miss the complexity of Hughes's work because of its seeming accessibility, Miller begins with a discussion of the writer's auto-biography, an important yet hitherto neglected key to his imagination. Moving on to consider the subtle resonances of his life in the varied genres over which his imagination "wandered," Miller finds a constant symbiotic bond between the historical and the lyrical. The range of Hughes's artistic vision is revealed in his depiction of Black women, his political stance, his lyric and tragi-comic modes.
This is one of the first studies to apply recent methods of literary analysis, including formalist, structuralist, and semiotic criticism, to the work of a Black American writer. Miller not only affirms in Hughes's work the peculiar qualities of Black American culture but provides a unifying conception of his art and identifies the primary metaphors lying at its heart.
Here is a fresh and coherent reading of the work of one of the twentieth century's greatest voices, a reinterpretation that renews our appreciation not only of Black American text and heritage but of the literary imagination itself.
The NAACP's Cultural Campaign for Civil Rights
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the nation's oldest civil rights organization, having dedicated itself to the fight for racial equality since 1909. While the group helped achieve substantial victories in the courtroom, the struggle for civil rights extended beyond gaining political support. It also required changing social attitudes. The NAACP thus worked to alter existing prejudices through the production of art that countered racist depictions of African Americans, focusing its efforts not only on changing the attitudes of the white middle class but also on encouraging racial pride and a sense of identity in the black community.
Art for Equality explores an important and little-studied side of the NAACP's activism in the cultural realm. In openly supporting African American artists, writers, and musicians in their creative endeavors, the organization aimed to change the way the public viewed the black community. By overcoming stereotypes and the belief of the majority that African Americans were physically, intellectually, and morally inferior to whites, the NAACP believed it could begin to defeat racism.
Illuminating important protests, from the fight against the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation to the production of anti-lynching art during the Harlem Renaissance, this insightful volume examines the successes and failures of the NAACP's cultural campaign from 1910 to the 1960s. Exploring the roles of gender and class in shaping the association's patronage of the arts, Art for Equality offers an in-depth analysis of the social and cultural climate during a time of radical change in America.
From the tobacco fields of western Kentucky to the streets of Harlem, from the Gullah Islands off the South Carolina and Georgia coasts to the all-black republic of Haiti, painter Ellis Wilson (1899-1977) examined the scope and depth of black culture.
One of Kentucky's most significant African American artists, Wilson graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1923. He spent five more years in the city before moving to New York, where he lived for the rest of his life. Aside from his participation in the WPA's Federal Arts Project and a Guggenheim Fellowship, he was never able to support himself fully by painting. Yet his work has long been praised for its boldness and individuality. Black workers were a favorite subject: field hands, factory workers, loggers, fishermen, and more.
Of his 1940s series of black factory employees, Wilson stated, "That was the first time I had ever seen my people working in industry, so I painted them." Over time his documentary style gave way to one that emphasized shape and color over pure representation. Despite exhibitions in New York and elsewhere, Wilson considered a small show at the public library in his hometown of Mayfield in 1947 to be "one of the high points" of his life. This catalog accompanies the first major retrospective of Wilson's paintings.
Literary and International Representation of the New Negro Era
During the first generation of black participation in U.S. diplomacy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a vibrant community of African American writers and cultural figures worked as U.S. representatives abroad. Through the literary and diplomatic dossiers of figures such as Frederick Douglass, James Weldon Johnson, Archibald and Angelina Grimké, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida Gibbs Hunt, and Richard Wright, Brian Roberts shows how the intersection of black aesthetic trends and U.S. political culture both Americanized and internationalized the trope of the New Negro. This decades-long relationship began during the days of Reconstruction, and it flourished as U.S. presidents courted and rewarded their black voting constituencies by appointing black men as consuls and ministers to such locales as Liberia, Haiti, Madagascar, and Venezuela. These appointments changed the complexion of U.S. interactions with nations and colonies of color; in turn, state-sponsored black travel gave rise to literary works that imported international representation into New Negro discourse on aesthetics, race, and African American culture.
Beyond offering a narrative of the formative dialogue between black transnationalism and U.S. international diplomacy, Artistic Ambassadors also illuminates a broader literary culture that reached both black and white America as well as the black diaspora and the wider world of people of color. In light of the U.S. appointments of its first two black secretaries of state and the election of its first black president, this complex representational legacy has continued relevance to our understanding of current American internationalism.
It is important to question some recurrent commonplaces about the (post)colonial order and the preservation of the environment if one wants to reconcile ecocriticism and postcolonial theories. For instance, were pre-colonial societies devoid of ecological awareness? Is the environmental commitment of the developed world a kind of repentance for the damages that its material comfort has caused to the environment? Are the underprivileged people of the third world so concerned with their daily survival that they become unable to advocate for the protection of the environment? Can we conclude, given the conflicting views of the industrialized countries and their post-colonial counterparts on ecology, that issues of human development and those of the conservation of the environment are incompatible? These are some of the questions that the essays in Aspects Ècocritiques de líimaginaire africain attempt to answer, with reference to African literature.
Caribbean Refugees and Testimonial Discourse
Offering the first interdisciplinary study of refugees in the Caribbean, Central America, and the United States, Asylum Speakers relates current theoretical debates about hospitality and cosmopolitanism to the actual conditions of refugees. In doing so, the author weighs the questions of truth valueassociated with various modes of witnessing to explore the function of testimonial discourse in constructing refugee subjectivity in New World cultural and political formations. By examining literary works by such writers as Edwidge Danticat, Nikl Payen, Kamau Brathwaite, Francisco Goldman, Julia Alvarez, Ivonne Lamazares, and Cecilia Rodr!guez Milans, theoretical work by Jacques Derrida, Edouard Glissant, and Wilson Harris, as well as human rights documents, government documents, photography, and historical studies, Asylum Speakers constructs a complex picture of New World refugees that expands current discussions of diaspora and migration, demonstrating that the peripheral nature of refugee testimonial narratives requires us to reshape the boundaries of U.S. ethnic and postcolonial studies.
Black International Writing
A Daughter's Tribute to Ann Petry
Ann Petry (1908-1997) was a prominent writer during a period in which few black writers were published with regularity in America. Her novels The Street, Country Place, and The Narrows, along with a collection of short stories and various essays and works of nonfiction, give voice to black experience outside of the traditional strains of poverty and black nationalism.
At Home Inside: A Daughter's Tribute to Ann Petry sifts the myriad contradictions of Ann Petry's life from a daughter's vantage. Ann Petry hoarded antiques but destroyed many of her journals. She wrote, but, failing to publish for years, she used her imagination to design and sew clothes, to bake, and to garden. When fame finally came, Ann Petry did not enjoy the travel it brought. Though she suffered phobias and anxieties all her life, she did not avoid the obligations of literary success until late in her career.
Ann Petry applied her formidable skills to stories she told about herself and her family, and the corrections Elisabeth Petry makes to her mother's inventions will prove invaluable. Talking about her life publicly, Ann Petry acknowledged six different birth dates. She hid her first marriage, and even represented her father, Peter C. Lane, Jr., as a potential killer. Mining Petry's journals Elisabeth Petry creates part biography, part love letter, and part sounding of her mother's genius and luminescent personality.
Elisabeth Petry is a freelance writer with a juris doctor from the University of Pennsylvania. She lives in Middletown, Connecticut, and is the editor of Can Anything Beat White? A Black Family's Letters (University Press of Mississippi).