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Chapter 8 Black American Literature
I.                   Overview
Negro – coloured (legally free) – black (after civil rights movement)
1.         oral tradition
(1)      songs and ballads
(2)      spirituals: sorrow of the singers’ earlier condition and longing for freedom
(3)      blues: after civil war, derived from work songs – loneliness, separation, losses, wonderings, love, desperation, sense of doom
(4)      jazz: after WWI, developed from blues, died out in the Great Depression
2.         written literature (from 1760s)
(1)      poetry: religious, enduring, patient to the white
(2)      slave narrative: autobiographical experience of the person
(3)      1920s: Harlem Renaissance – New York, black – black dialect and black folklore – “the new negro” – representatives: Langston Hughes (“black poet laureate”), Huston, Claude McKay
(4)      1940s: Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison
(5)      50s~60s: a lot of black writers emerged in the civil rights movement: James Baldwin, Brooks, Jones
(6)      70s~80s: publishing of “Root” (Alex Haley), Walker – “The Colour Purple”, Morrison (the second woman writer and the only black who won Nobel Prize)
II.                Richard Wright
1.         life
2.         works (来源:英语论坛 http://bbs.englishcn.com)
(1)      Uncle Tom’s Children: Four Novellas
(2)      Native Son
(3)      Black Boy
(4)      The Outsider (the first novel of existentialism in America, published in France)
3.         themes and subjects
His common theme is to condemn racism, urge reform, criticize evils of society. His books focus on racial conflict and physical violence. They review the devastating effect of institutionalized hatred (hatred brought by social system) and humiliation on black males’ psyche. They affirmed dignity and humility of society’s outcasts.
4.         writing techniques – realism, naturalism
He tries to show that people cannot escape from society. Therefore, society must be changed. He is a father figure, especially to the writers of violence.
III.             Ralph Ellison
1.         life
2.         works: Invisible Man
significance: It has a universality of theme (problems of all modern people), not only regional dilemma of existence.
3.         attitude: complexity of art – the best art makes good politics, not vice versa.
IV.              James Baldwin
1.         life
2.         works
(1)      Go Tell It on the Mountain
(2)      Notes of a Native Son
(3)      Nobody Knows My Name
(4)      The Fire Next Time
3.         point of view
Baldwin calls for the blacks to resort to means including force so as to bring about the nation’s self-realization. He saw love and understanding as difficult but necessary way to overcome racial conflict.
4.         themes: race, homosexuality
V.                 Alice Walker
1.         life
2.         works
(1)      Once (a collection of poems)
(2)      In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens (“womanism” instead of feminism)
(3)      The Colour Purple (epistolary)
VI.              Toni Morrison
1.         life
2.         works
(1)      The Bluest Eye
(2)      Sula
(3)      Song of Solomon (the best black novel after Native Son and Invisible Man)
(4)      Tar Baby
(5)      Beloved
(6)      Jazz
(7)      Love (trilogy)
3.         themes: love, guilt, history, individual, gender, race, religion
4.         purpose: to empower the black people to act for themselves, to recognize for their own world, own history, own reality
5.         style – many kinds of factors: naturalism, realism, fantasy, reality, magical realism
 
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