With the same intellectual incisiveness and supple, stylish prose he brought to his classic novel Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison examines his antecedents and in so doing illuminates the literature, music, and culture of both black and white America. His range is virtuosic, encompassing Mark Twain and Richard Wright, Mahalia Jackson and Charlie Parker, The Birth of a Nation and the Dante-esque landscape of Harlem−"the scene and symbol of the Negro's perpetual alienation in the land of his birth." Throughout, he gives us what amounts to an episodic autobiography that traces his formation as a writer as well as the genesis of Invisible Man. On every page, Ellison reveals his idiosyncratic and often contrarian brilliance, his insistence on refuting both black and white stereotypes of what an African American writer should say or be. The result is a book that continues to instruct, delight, and occasionally outrage readers thirty years after it was first published.
Black Intellectual Practice, Jazz Improvisation, and Philosophical Pragmatism
Author: Walton M. Muyumba
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Category: Social Science
Though often thought of as rivals, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Amiri Baraka shared a range of interests, especially a passion for music. Jazz, in particular, was a decisive influence on their thinking, and, as The Shadow and the Act reveals, they drew on their insights into the creative process of improvisation to analyze race and politics in the civil rights era. In this inspired study, Walton M. Muyumba situates them as a jazz trio, demonstrating how Ellison, Baraka, and Baldwin’s individual works form a series of calls and responses with each other. Muyumba connects their writings on jazz to the philosophical tradition of pragmatism, particularly its support for more freedom for individuals and more democratic societies. He examines the way they responded to and elaborated on that lineage, showing how they significantly broadened it by addressing the African American experience, especially its aesthetics. Ultimately, Muyumba contends, the trio enacted pragmatist principles by effectively communicating the social and political benefits of African Americans fully entering society, thereby compelling America to move closer to its democratic ideals.
Mark Twain and the Era That Shaped His Masterpiece
Author: Andrew Levy
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Category: Literary Criticism
A provocative, exuberant, and deeply researched investigation into Mark Twain’s writing of America’s favorite icon of childhood, Huckleberry Finn: “A boldly revisionist reading of Twain’s Huckleberry Finn…Twain’s masterpiece emerges as a compelling depiction of nineteenth-century troubles still all too familiar in the twenty-first century” (Booklist, starred review). In the “groundbreaking” (Dallas Morning News) Huck Finn’s America, award-winning biographer Andrew Levy shows how modern readers have misunderstood Huckleberry Finn for decades. Mark Twain’s masterpiece is often discussed either as a carefree adventure story for children or a serious novel about race relations, yet Levy argues, it is neither. Instead, Huck Finn was written at a time when Americans were nervous about “uncivilized” bad boys, and a debate was raging about education, popular culture, and responsible parenting—casting Huck’s now-celebrated “freedom” in a very different and very modern light. On issues of race, on the other hand, Twain’s lifelong fascination with minstrel shows and black culture inspired him to write a book not about civil rights, but about race’s role in entertainment and commerce, the same features on which much of our own modern consumer culture is also grounded. In Levy’s vision, Huck Finn has more to say about contemporary children and race that we have ever imagined—if we are willing to hear it. An eye-opening, groundbreaking exploration of the character and psyche of Mark Twain as he was writing his most famous novel, Levy’s book “explores the soul of Mark Twain's enduring achievement with the utmost self-awareness...An eloquent argument, wrapped up in rich biographical detail and historical fact.” (USA TODAY). Huck Finn’s America brings the past to vivid, surprising life, and offers a persuasive argument for why this American classic deserves to be understood anew.
William Faulkner in Context explores the environment that conditioned Faulkner's creative work. This book provides a broad and authoritative framework that will help readers to better understand this widely read yet challenging writer. Each essay offers a critical assessment of Faulkner's work as it relates to such topics as genre, reception, and the significance of place. Although Faulkner dwelt in his native Mississippi throughout his life, his visits to cities like New Orleans, Paris, and Los Angeles profoundly shaped his early career. Inextricable from the dramatic upheavals of the twentieth century, Faulkner's writing was deeply affected by the Great War, the Great Depression, World War II, and the civil rights movement. In this volume, a host of renowned scholars shed light on this enigmatic writer and render him accessible to students and researchers alike.
Definitions of modernism have been debated throughout the twentieth century. But both during the height of the modernist era and since, little to no consideration has been given to the work of minority writers as part of this movement. Considering works by writers ranging from B.A. Botkin, T.S. Eliot, Waldo Frank, and Jean Toomer to Pedro Pietri and Allen Ginsberg, these essays examine the disputed relationships between modernity, modernism, and American cultural diversity. In so doing, the collection as a whole adds an important new dimension to our understanding of twentieth-century literature.
Acts of Paul is a collection of early Christian traditions that were not included in the canonized Acts: the Acts of Paul and Thekla, 3 Corinthians, the Martyrdom of Paul, and other fabulous stories, such as Paul baptizing a lion. By the end of the second century, there was a rumor in North Africa that "Acts of Paul" had been fabricated by a presbyter in Asia Minor (Tertullian, De baptismo 17.5) and to this day, it is alleged that Acts of Paul is later than and inferior to the traditions preserved in Acts - historically, theologically, and otherwise. But what evidence is there for the composition and reception of Acts of Paul? In this study, Glenn E. Snyder critically examines Greek, Latin, and Coptic witnesses to Acts of Paul from the second to sixth centuries, with chapters on the independently circulating acts, extant collections, and other evidence for the formation of Acts of Paul.
Compiled, edited, and newly revised by Ralph Ellison’s literary executor, John F. Callahan, this Modern Library Paperback Classic includes posthumously discovered reviews, criticism, and interviews, as well as the essay collections Shadow and Act (1964), hailed by Robert Penn Warren as “a body of cogent and subtle commentary on the questions that focus on race,” and Going to the Territory (1986), an exploration of literature and folklore, jazz and culture, and the nature and quality of lives that black Americans lead. “Ralph Ellison,” wrote Stanley Crouch, “reached across race, religion, class and sex to make us all Americans.”
For over a decade, Tyler Perry has been a lightning rod for both criticism and praise. To some he is most widely known for his drag performances as Madea, a self-proclaimed "mad black woman," not afraid to brandish a gun or a scalding pot of grits. But to others who watch the film industry, he is the businessman who by age thirty-six had sold more than $100 million in tickets, $30 million in videos, $20 million in merchandise, and was producing 300 projects each year viewed by 35,000 every week. Is the commercially successful African American actor, director, screenwriter, playwright, and producer "malt liquor for the masses," an "embarrassment to the race!," or is he a genius who has directed the most culturally significant American melodramas since Douglas Sirk? Are his films and television shows even melodramas, or are they conservative Christian diatribes, cheeky camp, or social satires? Do Perry's flattened narratives and character tropes irresponsibly collapse important social discourses into one-dimensional tales that affirm the notion of a "post-racial" society? In light of these debates, From Madea to Media Mogul makes the argument that Tyler Perry must be understood as a figure at the nexus of converging factors, cultural events, and historical traditions. Contributors demonstrate how a critical engagement with Perry's work and media practices highlights a need for studies to grapple with developing theories and methods on disreputable media. These essays challenge value-judgment criticisms and offer new insights on the industrial and formal qualities of Perry's work.