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James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and the Rhetorics of Black Male Subjectivity

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In James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and the Rhetorics of Black Male Subjectivity, Aaron Ngozi Oforlea explores the rhetorical strategies that Baldwin’s and Morrison’s black male characters employ as they negotiate discourses of race, class, gender, and sexuality. According to Oforlea, these characters navigate a discursive divide that separates limiting representations of black males in dominant discourses from a decolonized and empowered subjectivity. Specifically, the discursive divide creates an invisible boundary between how black subjects are seen, imagined, and experienced in dominant culture on the one hand, and how they understand themselves on the other.

Oforlea’s book offers new analyses of the character dynamics in Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain, Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone, and If Beale Street Could Talkand Morrison’s Beloved, Song of Solomon, and Tar Baby. The black male characters in these novels encounter the discursive divide, or a cultural dissonance, when they encounter dominant representations of black male identities. They use these opportunities to construct a counter-discourse about black male subjectivity. Ultimately, Oforlea argues, these characters are strategic about when and how they want to appropriate and subvert dominant ideologies. Their awareness that post-racial discourses perpetuate racial inequality serves as a gateway toward participation in collective struggles for racial justice.

ISBN-13: 9780814253908

Media Type: Paperback(1)

Publisher: Ohio State University Press

Publication Date: 03-21-2017

Pages: 278

Product Dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

Aaron Ngozi Oforlea is Associate Professor of English at Washington State University, Pullman.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction Negotiating: "Innocence," "Romance," and the Discursive Divide 1

Chapter 1 "Help Me This Mornin's Bad": Songs, Narratives, and Other Rhetorical Acts in Beloved 44

Chapter 2 "My Witness Is in Heaven and My Record Is on High": Discoursing the Spiritual and the Secular in Go Tell It on the Mountain 74

Chapter 3 "Look at the Nigger!": Mimicry, the Black Male Artist, and Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone 97

Chapter 4 "My Great-Granddaddy Could Fly!": Negotiating Cultural History and Family Legacies in Song of Solomon 114

Chapter 5 "Promontory of Despair": Baldwin's Gay Sensibilities in If Beale Street Could Talk 145

Chapter 6 "Stop Loving Your Ignorance-It Isn't Lovable": Tar Baby and the Rhetoric of Responsibility 181

Coda Beyond Baldwin and Morrison 213

Bibliography 219

Index 235