By Maisha L. Wester (auth.)
This new critique of latest African-American fiction explores its intersections with and opinions of the Gothic style. Wester finds the myriad methods writers control the style to critique the gothic's conventional racial ideologies and the mechanisms that have been appropriated and re-articulated as an invaluable motor vehicle for the enunciation of the ordinary terrors and complexities of black lifestyles in the US. Re-reading significant African American literary texts comparable to Narrative of the lifetime of Frederick Douglass, of 1 Blood, Cane, Invisible guy, and Corregidora African American Gothic investigates texts from every one significant period in African American tradition to teach how the gothic has continuously circulated through the African American literary canon.
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Extra info for African American Gothic: Screams from Shadowed Places
In white American texts, Morrison’s “not-me” figure gains life and space to become the surrogate of whiteness through the construction of the spectacle. Like the British tradition, American Gothic’s obsession with light and shadow in looming, ornate edifices betrays the gothic’s emphasis on issues of spectacle and spectatorship. Mark Hennelly specifically marks out a “gothic gaze,” which he defines as obsessively introjective and projective (Hennelly 75). 11 Even more significant is the similarity between Foucault’s “Panopticism” theory of institutionalized surveillance and the gothic’s domicile that is typically wrought with “cloistered peepholes and secret recesses” through which villains spy on victim.
Thus, William Craft exclaims, “Oh! If there is any one thing under the wide canopy of heaven, horrible enough to stir a man’s soul, and make his very blood boil, it is the thought of his dear wife, his unprotected sister, or his young and virtuous daughters, struggling to save themselves from falling prey to such demons” (8). Implicit in this sentence is Craft’s horror at being impotent 44 AFRICAN AMERICAN GOTHIC in such situations; as slaves, men can do nothing to prevent the rape of women, to prevent masters from breaking their wedding vows, and to act completely as fathers to their daughters.
Therefore, these writers have recourse to gothic ideological tropes, exercising them as rhetorical asides upon an already gothic plot. Furthermore, as texts such as Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl illustrate, the slave narrative easily transitions, typologically and ideologically, into the gothic novelistic mode. Yet the genre also bound the slave writer to the problem of presenting and defining his being to and among his Anglo audience. In a society whose definitions of humanity and being were based upon Enlightenment ideals, slave narrators had to create their selves through a mastery of language against notions that the lack of a collective African American history only proved their inhumanity.