The scary Mason-Dixon Line : African American writers and the South / Trudier Harris.Material type: TextSeries: Southern literary studies: Publisher: Baton Rouge : Louisiana State University Press, c2009Description: xi, 247 p. ; 22 cmISBN: 9780807133958 (alk. paper); 0807133957 (alk. paper); 9780801833953 (alk. paper); 0801833957 (alk. paper)Subject(s): American literature -- African American authors -- History and criticism | Southern States -- In literature | African Americans in literature | Fear in literature | Slavery -- Psychological aspects | Racism -- Psychological aspects | African Americans -- Race identity | African Americans -- Psychology | Literature and history -- United States -- History -- 20th centuryAdditional physical formats: Online version:: Scary Mason-Dixon Line.DDC classification: 810.9/896073 LOC classification: PS153.N5 | H293 2009
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Includes bibliographical references (p. 225-233) and index.
Introduction : Southern black writers no matter where they are born -- Such a frightening musical form : James Baldwin's Blues for Mister Charlie (1964) -- Fear of manhood in the wake of systemic racism in Ernest J. Gaines's "Three men" (1968) -- The irresistible appeal of slavery : fear of losing the self in Octavia E. Butler's Kindred (1979) -- Owning the script, owning the self : transcendence of fear in Sherley Anne Williams's Dessa Rose (1986) -- 10,000 miles from Dixie and still in the South : fear of transplanted racism in Yusef Komunyakaa's Vietnam poetry : Dien cai dau (1988) -- Fear of family, Christianity, and the self : Southern black "othering" in Randall Kenan's A visitation of spirits (1989) -- A haunting diary and a slasher quilt : using dynamic folk communities to combat terror in Phyllis Alesia Perry's Stigmata (1998) -- Domesticating fear : Tayari Jones's mission in Leaving Atlanta (2002) -- The worst fear imaginable : black slave owners in Edward P. Jones's The known world (2003) -- No fear; or, autoerotic creativity : how Raymond Andrews pleasures himself in Baby Sweet's (1983).
New Yorker James Baldwin once declared that a black man can look at a map of the United States, contemplate the area south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and thus scare himself to death. In this book, the author a renowned literary scholar explores why black writers, whether born in Mississippi, New York, or elsewhere, have consistently both loved and hated the South. She explains that for these authors the South represents not so much a place or even a culture as a rite of passage. Not one of them can consider himself or herself a true African American writer without confronting the idea of the South in a decisive way. She considers native born black southerners Raymond Andrews, Ernest J. Gaines, Edward P. Jones, Tayari Jones, Yusef Komunyakaa, Randall Kenan, and Phyllis Alesia Perry, and nonsouthern writers James Baldwin, Sherley Anne Williams, and Octavia E. Butler. The works she examines date from Baldwin's Blues for Mr. Charlie (1964) to Edward P. Jones's The Known World (2003). By including Komunyakaa's poems and Baldwin's play, as well as male and female authors, she demonstrates that the writers' preoccupation with the South cuts across lines of genre and gender. Whether their writings focus on slavery, migration from the South to the North, or violence on southern soil, and whether they celebrate the triumph of black southern heritage over repression or castigate the South for its treatment of blacks, these authors cannot escape the call of the South. Indeed, she asserts that creative engagement with the South represents a defining characteristic of African American writing. A singular work by one of the foremost literary scholars writing today, this book demonstrates how history and memory continue to figure powerfully in African American literary creativity.
Reviews provided by Syndetics
CHOICE ReviewThe question that Harris (Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) addresses is long-held and ongoing: can the South be separated from the newer traditions of African American literature? In attempting to develop a comprehensive answer to this question, she goes beyond indicating that the South insinuates itself in the writings of African Americans no matter where they are writing in the US--and even beyond it. She points to fear as a dominant theme and element in work by James Baldwin, Ernest Gaines, Octavia Butler, Yusef Komunyakaa, Edward P. Jones, and five other writers. Sexuality, violence, and Christianity figure in Harris's discussions, as do tensions between loving and hating the South, in some ways a provocative elaboration on this issue in William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! The chapters on Baldwin's abiding fear of the South, Komunyakaa's portrayal of prejudices transplanted to Vietnam, and Jones's examination of black slaveholders are compelling. One of the foremost scholars in African American letters, Harris argues her positions authoritatively and with a wide range of literary references. Remarkably free of jargon, this study invites a wide audience. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. T. Bonner Jr. emeritus, Xavier University of Louisiana
Author notes provided by Syndetics
The author or editor of numerous books, Trudier Harris has taught African American and American literature, as well as folklore, for more than three decades. She is currently J. Carlyle Sitterson Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.