Abandoning the Black Hero: Sympathy and Privacy in the Postwar African American White-Life Novel

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Rutgers University Press, Dec 15, 2012 - Literary Criticism - 280 pages
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Abandoning the Black Hero is the first book to examine the postwar African American white-life novel—novels with white protagonists written by African Americans. These fascinating works have been understudied despite having been written by such defining figures in the tradition as Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Ann Petry, and Chester Himes, as well as lesser known but formerly best-selling authors Willard Motley and Frank Yerby.

John C. Charles argues that these fictions have been overlooked because they deviate from two critical suppositions: that black literature is always about black life and that when it represents whiteness, it must attack white supremacy. The authors are, however, quite sympathetic in the treatment of their white protagonists, which Charles contends should be read not as a failure of racial pride but instead as a strategy for claiming creative freedom, expansive moral authority, and critical agency.

In an era when “Negro writers” were expected to protest, their sympathetic treatment of white suffering grants these authors a degree of racial privacy previously unavailable to them. White writers, after all, have the privilege of racial privacy because they are never pressured to write only about white life. Charles reveals that the freedom to abandon the “Negro problem” encouraged these authors to explore a range of new genres and themes, generating a strikingly diverse body of novels that significantly revise our understanding of mid-twentieth-century black writing.

 

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Contents

Introduction
1
MidTwentiethCentury Racial Discourse and the Rise of the WhiteLife Novel
22
Ann Petrys Rage for Privacy
55
Chapter 3 White Masks and Queer Prisons
86
Reforming Southern White Manhood in Frank Yerbys The Foxes of Harrow
130
Unspeakable Things Unspoken in Zora Neale Hurstons Seraph on the Suwanee
158
Savage Holiday Moral Slaves and the Problem of Freedom in Cold War America
182
Conclusion
202
Notes
211
Works Cited
241
Index
257
About the Author
264
Copyright

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About the author (2012)

***NOTE: Author has legally changed his name to John Charles Williamson.***
All future publications will be under this new name. 

JOHN C. CHARLES is an assistant professor of English and Africana studies at North Carolina State University.

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