Ride Out the Wilderness: Geography and Identity in Afro-American Literature
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Melvin Dixon, professor of English at Queens College and the Graduate Center, The City University of New York, explores the importance of place as it relates to both self- and cultural identity among African-Americans. He says, in his introduction, "I exaniine the ways in which Afro-American writers, often considered homeless, alienated from mainstream culture, and segregated in negative environments, have used language to create alternative landscapes where black culture and identity can flourish apart from any marginal, prescribed 'place."' He explores references to the wilderness, the underground, and the mountaintop as "the primary images of a literal and figurative geography in the search for self and home...." Dixon's discussion of the imagery of place begins with an emphasis on the black slave songs and narratives which provide "images of physical and spiritual landscapes, interpretations of history, and heroic characters unlike any in American literature." Religion, of course, played a key role; he examines lines from spirituals and shows that the language of the slave singers "called into being a place beyond the confines of the plantation where they might undergo a fundamental change in selfperception and moral status." He says that the slaves looked for "alternative landscapes where a new name and a new freedom could be gained" and "determined in their lore that the wilderness, the lonesome valley, and the mountain were places of deliverance." Professor Dixon's discussions then emphasize key works of Jean Toomer (Cane and "Blue Meridian"); Claude McKay (Banjo); Richard Wright ("Me Man Who Lived Underground" and the unpublished manuscript "Memories of My Grandmother"); Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man); LeRoi Jones (Dutchman and The System q Dante's Hell); Zora Neal Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God); Alice Walker (Meridian, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, and The Color Purple); Gayl Jones (Corregidora and Eva's Man); James Baldwin (Go Tell It On the Mountain, Giovanni's Room, and Just Above My Head); and Toni Morrison (Sula and Song of Solomon). He also makes important references to other works by these writers and cites comparisons among the various writers and their works, thereby providing a tightly-knit discussion in support of his thesis. Ride Out the Wilderness is a formidable critical work that is must reading for faculty and graduate students of African-American literature. Professor Dixon is painstakingly precise and incisive in his examination of these prominent writers. -- From Independent Publisher
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Book Description University of Illinois Press, 1987. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110252014146
Book Description University of Illinois Press, 1987. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0252014146