By Maisha L. Wester (auth.)
This new critique of latest African-American fiction explores its intersections with and evaluations of the Gothic style. Wester finds the myriad methods writers manage the style to critique the gothic's conventional racial ideologies and the mechanisms that have been appropriated and re-articulated as an invaluable automobile for the enunciation of the bizarre terrors and complexities of black lifestyles in the United States. Re-reading significant African American literary texts comparable to Narrative of the lifetime of Frederick Douglass, of 1 Blood, Cane, Invisible guy, and Corregidora African American Gothic investigates texts from each one significant period in African American tradition to teach how the gothic has regularly circulated during the African American literary canon.
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Additional info for African American Gothic: Screams from Shadowed Places
The chapter specifically interrogates how Jean Toomer’s Cane (1923) and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) use the gothic genre to critique black leadership, particularly the notion of the “race man,” as well as to destabilize the boundary marking freedom. The texts essentially problematize the easy dichotomy established by the Mason-Dixon line, and thus in many ways return to the horror that plague slave narrators at the end of their texts. Challenged to find a mythic home that reconnects them to their ancestry while also offering equal opportunity and an escape from oppressive racialisms, the texts suggests that the North/South divide is fictional, as each location offers as much redemption and horror as the Other.
This queering gets picked up and repeatedly mobilized in American Gothic literature as racialized monsters are repeatedly characterized by libidinous sexuality and present the threat of rape to both heroes and heroines. Thus, for instance, the racial hybrid Peters in Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym initially poses as a sexual threat to Pym, drunkenly entering Pym’s sleeping quarters to engage in long, intimate talks. Race similarly differentiates between types of women in American Gothic texts.
In her essay “Toward the Gothic: Terrorism and Homosexual Panic,” Eve Sedgwick remarks that the gothic trope of the unspoken/ unspeakable is often an evasive discourse on transgressive sexuality. Although she focuses on “homosexual panic” as represented in and by gothic modes, she includes a long list of what constitutes “transgressive sexuality,” including rape and, arguably, miscegenation through imagined black men’s rape of white women. Furthermore, her essay argues that homosexuality is but a symptom of other transgressions of nonsexualized boundaries, such as class and racial distinctions.
African American Gothic: Screams from Shadowed Places by Maisha L. Wester (auth.)