Richard Wright and racial discourse

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University of Missouri Press, 1996 - Social Science - 312 pages
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"The day Native Son appeared, American culture was changed forever", wrote Irving Howe in 1963. Few critics have disputed this statement, and most would agree that the impact of Richard Wright's writings on American culture comes not just from his technique and style, but also from the particular effect his ideas and attitudes have had on American life. In an effort to gauge the extent of Wright's influence, Yoshinobu Hakutani analyzes his work both as art and as a discourse on race. Taking into consideration the social and cultural milieu of Wright's time, Hakutani compares and contrasts Wright's works with those by other writers dealing with similar subjects. For examples, he discusses Native Son in comparison with Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson and in contrast with Dreiser's An American Tragedy. In a similar vein he weighs The Outsider, a controversial novel among critics, against Camus's The Stranger. And The Man Who Lived Underground is read as an existentialist work that contains elements of Zen philosophy. Hakutani also studies Wright's neglected works of nonfiction, examining how they place Wright's diverse racial, cultural, economic, and political ideas within the context of his American, African American, European, Pan-African, and Asian experiences. Whereas Wright is primarily concerned with European colonialism in Black Power, religion and Catholicism come under scrutiny in Pagan Spain, and The Color Curtain brings together all of these issues. Hakutani concludes his book with a chapter on Wright's poetics, determining that Wright followed Japanese aesthetics, and that the best of his four thousand haiku marvelously reflect the spirit of nature and, occasionally, Zen.

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American Racial Issues
Cultural and Racial Discourse

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About the author (1996)

Yoshinobu Hakutani is professor of English and University Distinguished Scholar at Kent State University. He is the author or editor of many books, including "Cross-Cultural Visions in African American Modernism, Theodore Dreiser's Uncollected Magazine Articles, Theodore Dreiser and American Culture, Selected Magazine Articles of Theodore Dreiser, "and "Young Dreiser.

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