The Ideologies of African American Literature: From the Harlem Renaissance to the Black Nationalist Revolt : a Sociology of Literature Perspective

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Rowman & Littlefield, 2001 - 363 pages
This book embarks on new intellectual terrain as the first systematic and theoretically grounded sociological study of African American literature. It examines the impact of race relations, as well as other social and political forces, on the development of the dominant ideological outlooks of African American literature. Spanning the fifty year period from 1920 to 1970, encompassing the mass northern movement, urbanization, and modernization of the African American community, and culminating in the civil rights revolution, it is the first sociological study that situates black literary discourse, and the major black American literary intellectuals (e.g. Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka), in the social and political developments of American race relations. By analyzing the formation, influence, and decline of each of the five dominant schools of black literary discourse over those five tumultuous decades, it explains how black literary production not only reacted to -- but also was shaped and constrained by -- the racial caste system. The book concludes with a theoretical chapter that links the dominant black literary outlooks to white American culture. Rejecting the simplistic notion that all cultural expression by black Americans reflects the community's social consciousness, this theoretical discussion sets forth a comparative analytical framework for understanding the social locations and functions of the different spheres of African American cultural production.
 

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Contents

The Era of the Primitivist School The Beginning of Black American Literatures Public Role
13
The Demise of Paternalistic Cultural Hegemony
15
The Black Communitys Transformation and Black American Literatures New Public Role
21
The Sociohistorical Setting and the Origins of the Primitivist Ideology
27
The Primitivist Ideology and the Black American Community
36
Major Ideological Forces within the Black Community
38
The Writers and Literary Works of the Dominant Primitivist School
54
The Black Primitivist Writers Claude McKay Langston Hughes Jean Toomer Countee Cullen
69
Major Writers and Literary Work
203
Richard Wright and The Outsider
224
The Last Phase of Richard Wrights Literary Career
230
Political ReEngagement through Protest for Civil Rights
233
Emerging Contradictions and Discontents of an Affluent Society
234
Changing Social and Economic Conditions within the Black American Community
237
The Changing Outlook on American Race Relations and the Emergence of the Civil Rights Movement
241
The Emergence of James Baldwin and the Moral Suasion Ideology
244

The Demise of the Dominant Black Primitivist Literary School
116
The Era of the Naturalistic Protest School The Politicization of Black American Literature
119
The Sociohistorical Setting
120
Communist Party Initiatives in the Black Community
122
Richard Wright and the Development of the Naturalistic Protest School
127
The Early Years
130
The Communist Influences in the White American Literary Community
136
The Communist Partys Interest in Black Writers
138
Richard Wrights Involvement with the Communist Party
139
Richard Wrights New York Years and Literary Fame
151
The Naturalistic Protest Literary Works
159
Other Writers and Literary Works of the Naturalistic Protest School
172
Sounding the Death Knell for a Literary School
179
The Era of the Existentialist School Political Disillusionment and Retreat into Individualism
183
The Beginning of the Cold War
184
The Postwar Retreat of Liberal White Intellectual Culture
187
The Ideological Reorientation of Black American Literature
190
Restabilization and Moderate Reform
191
Emergence of the New Black Bourgeoisie
196
Ralph Ellison and Invisible Man
199
The Emerging Crisis within the Civil Rights Movement
256
The Erupting Storm of Racial Violence and the Culmination of the Moral Suasion Literary School
261
A Failed Quest for Racial Amalgamation
269
A Black Militant Assault on Baldwins Social Role
272
Amiri Baraka and the Rise of the Counterhegemonic Black Cultural Nationalist School
275
Racial Polarization and Growth of the Black Nationalist Movement
276
Amiri Baraka and the Emergence of the Dominant Cultural Nationalist Literary School
281
The Cultural Nationalist Literary School
306
Black Nationalist Images of Reality
308
The Demise of the Cultural Nationalist School
312
A Theoretical Overview
317
The Cultural Functions of Black American Literature Compared with Other Black American Cultural Institutions
318
Historical Overview of Black Cultural Institutions
323
Assimilation versus Hegemony
326
The Ironic Role of the Liberal White American Intelligentsia
330
The New Postpolitical Black Literary Culture
335
References
339
Index
349
About the Author
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About the author (2001)

Robert E. Washington is professor of sociology at Bryn Mawr College.

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