American Body Politics: Race, Gender, and Black Literary Renaissance

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University of Georgia Press, 1998 - Biography & Autobiography - 419 pages
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Body politics have played a decisive role in American literature, especially in the work of African Americans, whose sensitivity to the tradition of misrepresenting black bodies in American culture has left indelible traces. InAmerican Body Politics Felipe Smith tracks the emergence of particular gender images in association with specific social, political, and economic pressures and explores the impact of interrelated discourses on race, gender, and nation upon the development of African American literature from the turn of the century to the early modern period.

Smith focuses on gender images such as the white witch, black madonna, mammy, and white lady and examines the broad utility of body images in the discourse of black national belonging. In response to literary criticism that brackets the politics of representation under the phrase "extra-literary concerns," Smith articulates a theoretical approach that investigates the "extraliterary" as the source of some of the most powerful and enduring figurative and mythical constructs in the black writing tradition.

American Body Politics is a remarkable synthesis of historical readings combined with a highly original contribution to the comprehension of racial thought and literary writing.

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About the author (1998)

Felipe Smith is an associate professor of English at Tulane University.

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