Read e-book online African, Native, and Jewish American Literature and the PDF

By A. Kent

This e-book examines literature by means of African, local, and Jewish American novelists firstly of the 20th century, a interval of radical dislocation from homelands for those 3 ethnic teams in addition to the interval while such voices verified themselves as relevant figures within the American literary canon.

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African Americans had to contend with a preexisting dehumanizing and racist discourse, the always already constructed context of minstrelsy, dialect writing, and primitivism. As the unnamed fictionalized narrator in James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912) points out, the image of “a happy-go-lucky, laughing, shuffling, banjo-picking being” (123) dominated mainstream readers’ views of African Americans: “Indeed, [these images] form an ideal and exclusive literary concept of the American Negro to such an extent that it is almost impossible to get the reading public to recognize him in any other setting” (122).

The imaginative license that fiction provides enabled these writers to create an intercultural dialogue, at least within the pages of their texts, where people of different backgrounds listen, learn, and adapt from one another. At times, crosscultural interaction occurs on the plot level, as in Hurston’s and McNickle’s novels. But the novel form itself, in contrast to anthropological or historical account, deepens this dialogism by putting different linguistic traditions in conversation with one another.

Photo by University of Michigan Photo Services. AFRICAN AMERICANS: MOVING FROM CARICATURES TO CREATORS 31 a black man evolving into a watermelon, simultaneously perpetuating the stereotype that African Americans love watermelon and implying that African Americans were subhuman, even below plant life. Such carefully constructed acceptance of racial difference helped post-Civil War American legal and social systems maintain white supremacy. The landmark Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) legalized the segregation that had long been the reality, most obviously in the South but in other parts of the United States as well.

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