Cover for CLARK: Contemporary Black Men's Fiction and Drama. Click for larger image

Contemporary Black Men's Fiction and Drama

Demonstrating the extraordinary versatility of African-American men's writing since the 1970s, this forceful collection illustrates how African-American male novelists and playwrights have absorbed, challenged, and expanded the conventions of black American writing and, with it, black male identity. From the "John Henry Syndrome"--a definition of black masculinity based on brute strength or violence--to the submersion of black gay identity under equations of gay with white and black with straight, the African-American male in literature and drama has traditionally been characterized in ways that confine and silence him. Contemporary Black Men's Fiction and Drama identifies the forces that limit black male discourse, including traditions established by iconic African-American male authors such as James Baldwin, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison. This thoughtful volume also shows how contemporary black male authors use their narratives to put forward new ways of being and knowing that foster a more complete sense of self and more humane and open ways of communicating with and relating to others. In the work of Charles Johnson, Ernest Gaines, and August Wilson, contributors find paths toward broader, less rigid ideas of what black literature can be, what the connections among individual and communal resistance can be, and how black men can transcend the imprisoning models of hypermasculinity promoted by American culture. Seeking greater spiritual connection with the past, John Edgar Wideman returns to the folk rituals of his family, while Melvin Dixon and Brent Wade reclaim African roots and traditions. Ishmael Reed struggles with a contemporary cultural oppression that he sees as an insidious echo of slavery, while Clarence Major's experimental writing suggests how black men might reclaim their own voices in a culture that silences them. Taking in a wide range of critical, theoretical, cultural, gender, and sexual concerns, Contemporary Black Men's Fiction and Drama provides provocative new readings of a broad range of contemporary writers.

"Numerous recent books have treated the subject of black men, but . . . few have focused on literary criticism. . . . Essays treat such well-known figures as Ishmael Reed, John Edgar Wideman, Charles Johnson and Ernest Gaines, but the most significant pieces may be the ones on less-recognized but talented writers including Melvin Dixon, Brent Wade, and Randall Kenam. . . . This volume of cogently written articles . . . belongs in all collections of African American literature." -- Choice

"The anthology considers not only a literary heritage of black male writers, but the very construction of blackness and masculinity as well. This dual-purpose makes Clark's collection one of the most useful works on black male writers to date. This collection will provide invaluable contributions to students and scholars in the fields of Literary and Cultural Studies, in addtion to Black Studies, Queer Studies, and Gender Studies." --LaMonda Horton-Stallings, The Western Journal of Black Studies

"The collection of essays in Contemporary Black Men's Fiction and Drama present a varied and holistic look at the wide-ranging themes, styles, and contributions of present-day black male novelists." -- C. Liegh McInnis, Multicultural Review

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