The Contemporary African American Novel

The Contemporary African American Novel: Its Folk Roots and Modern Literary Branches

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 488
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  • Book Info
    The Contemporary African American Novel
    Book Description:

    In 1987 Bernard W. Bell published The AfroAmerican Novel and Its Tradition, a comprehensive history of more than 150 novels written by African Americans from 1853 to 1983. The book won the Distinguished Scholarship Award of the College Language Association and was reprinted five times. Now Bell has produced a new volume that serves as a sequel and companion to the earlier work, expanding the coverage to 2001 and examining the writings and traditions of a remarkably wide array of black novelists.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-067-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Memoir: On Becoming an African American Scholar Activist
    (pp. xi-xxviii)

    Everything now, we must assume, is in our hands,” African American gay novelist, playwright, and essayist James Baldwin reminded us in the biblical and black spiritual jeremiad at the end ofThe Fire Next Time(1963); “we have no right to assume otherwise. If we—and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others—do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare and achieve our country, and change the history of...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    The Contemporary African American Novel: Its Folk Roots and Modern Literary Branchesis a sociohistorical, sociocultural, and sociopsychological critical history of the contemporary African American novel as a socially symbolic act of cultural politics and narrative discourse. The strategic essentialism and oppositional discourse for interpreting African American narratives that I proposed in the introduction and first chapter ofThe Afro-American Novel and Its Traditionin 1987 has its origins in two interrelated theories. The first is a sociohistorical, sociocultural, and sociopsychological theory of Du Boisian double consciousness and double vision. And the second is a vernacular theory of residual oral...

  5. 1 Mapping the Rhetoric, Politics, and Poetics of Representation in the Contemporary African American Novel
    (pp. 9-58)

    If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck, then it must be a duck. This well-known folksaying, with its focus on knowledge acquired by perceptions of the bodies and behavior of others, is true on one level for many people. But as demonstrated by RuPaul, the successful black drag queen talk-show host; by Chester Himes, the social and sexual boundaries-crossing, prize-winning black masculinist detective novelist; and by Samuel Delany, the celebrated prize-winning black gay science fiction novelist and critic—the truth of performative racial and gender identities complicates rather than cancels the truth...

  6. 2 The Roots of the Contemporary African American Novel
    (pp. 59-93)

    The quest of early African American novelists to define, chronicle, and celebrate imaginatively the experiences of black people in the United States was influenced by the impact of societal and ideological anti-black racism on the development of their distinctive hybrid culture and double consciousness. This chapter will therefore survey the sociohistorical, sociocultural, and sociopsychological landscape of the double consciousness of the majority of African Americans and of the African American novel. It will also identify and examine the African and African American folk roots, residually oral vernacular forms, literary sources, and branches of the African American novel. From the tragicomic...

  7. 3 Mapping the Peaks and Valleys of the African American Novel (1853–1962)
    (pp. 94-129)

    In contrast toThe Afro-American Novel and Its Tradition, which closely examines the symbolic and vernacular patterns of selected novels published between 1853 and 1962, this chapter will primarily map the peaks and valleys of the tradition of the African American novel and highlight its different branches during this time. The first third of the chapter includes the period from the pre–Civil War years through the U.S entry into World War I. The next third, moving from the war years to the early 1950s, covers modernism, the Harlem Renaissance, with its search for new modes of narrative, and the...

  8. 4 Forms of Neorealism: Critical and Poetic Realism (1962–1983)
    (pp. 130-185)

    Rebellion or revolution—that was the burning question of the 1960s. Whether the cry was “We Shall Overcome,” “Power to the people!” or “Burn, baby, burn!” black and white voices were raised in protest against racism, poverty, war, corruption, and sexism. Many Americans were deeply disillusioned by the moral bankruptcy of their political and economic system and took radical action to correct or to escape the social injustice of the decade in myriad forms of movements and cults. These radical movements and cults ranged from the Weathermen, a white revolutionary splinter group of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), who...

  9. 5 Modernism and Postmodernism (1962–1983)
    (pp. 186-249)

    Speaking at Gettysburg during the centennial year of the Emancipation Proclamation, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “Until justice is blind, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men’s skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact.”¹ Two years after his succession to the presidency following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, President Johnson addressed the Howard University commencement audience and expressed a more radical commitment to interracial reform than any other chief executive. “In far too many ways,” he stated, “American Negroes have been another nation: deprived of freedom, crippled...

  10. 6 Continuity and Change in Ethnic Tropes of Identity Formation (1983–2001)
    (pp. 250-300)

    Between 1983 and 2001 African Americans continued their dynamic, dialectic role as agents for change in the identity formation of ethnic Americans and other people around the globe.¹ Although the predominantly middle-class and middle-aged NAACP leadership was deeply divided by ideological, economic, and generational differences over the future political direction of the Civil Rights movement, they were major organizers of and participants in the 1983 march of more than 250,000 people on Washington for jobs, peace, and freedom and in celebration of the anniversary of the 1963 march led by Martin Luther King Jr. Building on his leadership in civil...

  11. 7 The New Black Aesthetic: Eurocentric Metafiction and African Americentric Tropes of Transcultural Identity and Community (1983–2001)
    (pp. 301-332)

    The national census of 2000 confirms the growing potential power shift in the demographics of the United States to immigrants and native-born people generally called Latinos (i.e., citizens and non-citizens from North, Central, and South American nations of Spanish and various ethnic mixtures) as the largest ethnic political coalition in the nation. Internationally, the cataclysmic ethnic conflicts, migrations, drug wars, or genocidal wars in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Congo, and the former Yugoslavia, as well as in Colombia, South Africa, India, Sri Lanka, and Burundi tragically reveal that the struggle of peoples to reconcile the tension...

  12. 8 Contemporary African American Paraliterature: Science/Speculative Fiction, Gay/Lesbian, and Detective/Mystery Novels and Romances (1983–2001)
    (pp. 333-382)

    The 1980s and 1990s marked a renaissance in the tradition of the African American novel. On one hand, we witnessed the extraordinary critical success of Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor, Charles Johnson, and Toni Morrison for their experiments with nonrepresentational modernism and antirepresentational postmodernism.¹ On the other hand, with the overwhelming response of black and crossover white readers, especially women, we saw the astounding commercial success of contemporary representational African American romances and paraliterature. Paraliterature ranges from pulp fiction and formulaic adventure stories to extraterrestrial journeys and apolitical romances. It includes the transgeneric novels of science/speculative fiction by Samuel Delany and...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 383-388)

    Storytelling is nearly as old and fundamental to our human identity as life itself. Historically, the human quest of peoples around the globe to tell their own stories and sing their own songs is consistent with their desire to affirm the importance of the relationship between language, knowledge, and power in personal and collective self-determination and identity formation. “American fiction,” James W. Tuttleton writes in “Tracking the American Novel into the Void,” “is among other things a self-conscious enterprise intent on nothing less than appropriating the liberty claimed in the great political and social declarations so as to remake afresh...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 389-428)
  15. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 429-462)
  16. Index
    (pp. 463-490)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 491-491)