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Racial Myths and Masculinity in African American Literature - Jeffrey Leak

Racial Myths and Masculinity in African American Literature

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The portrayal of black men in our national literature is controversial, complex, and often contradictory."In Racial Myths and Masculinity in African American Literature, Jeffrey B. Leak identifies some of the long-held myths and stereotypes that persist in the work of black writers from the nineteenth century to the present--intellectual inferiority, criminality, sexual prowess, homosexual emasculation, and cultural deprivation. Utilizing Robert B. Stepto's call-and-response theory, Leak studies four pairs of novels within the context of certain myths, identifying the literary tandems between them and seeking to discover the source of our culture's psychological preoccupation with black men. Calling upon interdisciplinary fields of study--literary theory, psychoanalysis, gender studies, legal theory, and queer theory--Leak offers ground breaking analysis of both canonical texts (representing the "call" of the call-and-response dyad) and texts by emerging writers (representing the "response"), including Frederick Douglass and Charles Johnson: Ralph Ellison and Brent Wade; Richard Wright and Ernest J. Gaines; and Toni Morrison and David Bradley. Though Leak does not claim that the "response" tests are superior to the "call' texts, he does argue that, in some cases, the newer work--such as charles Johnson's "Oxherding Tale--can address a theme or offer a narrative innovation not found in preceding texts, such as "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas. In these instances, argues Leak, the newer texts constitute not only a response to the call text, but a substantial revision. Leak offers the first in-depth criticism of black masculinity in a range of literary texts. In a final chapter, he expands his discussion to the emerging field of black masculinity studies, pointing to future directions for study, including memoir, film, drama, and others. Poised on the brink of exciting new trends in scholarship, "Racial Myths and Masculinity in African American Literature is flagship work, enhancing the understanding of literary constructions of black masculinity and the larger cultural imperatives to which these writers are reacting.

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Prologue: The Power of Myth and Stereotypep. xi
A Crisis in the Male Spirit: Slavery, Masculinity, and the Myth of Black Inferiority in Charles Johnson's Oxherding Tale and Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglassp. 1
A Conflict between the Ideological and the Biological: The Myth of Black Sexual Prowess in Brent Wade's Company Man and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Manp. 29
I Want Him to Be a Man: Incarceration and the Myth of Black Criminality in Ernest J. Gaines's A Lesson before Dying and Richard Wright's Native Sonp. 59
It's Time You Learned the Truth about a Few Things: Masculinity and the Myth of Cultural Depravation in David Bradley's The Chaneysville Incident and Toni Morrison's Song of Solomonp. 91
Epilogue: Directions for Future Scholarship in the Analysis of Black Masculinitiesp. 133
Notesp. 141
Bibliographyp. 143
Indexp. 157
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9781572333574
ISBN-10: 157233357X
Audience: General
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 176
Published: 25th April 2005
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.5 x 15.88  x 1.91
Weight (kg): 0.41