Constructing the Black Masculine: Identity and Ideality in African American Men's Literature and Culture, 1775-1995

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Overview


In seven representative episodes of black masculine literary and cultural history—from the founding of the first African American Masonic lodge in 1775 to the 1990s choreographies of modern dance genius Bill T. Jones—Constructing the Black Masculine maps black men’s historical efforts to negotiate the frequently discordant relationship between blackness and maleness in the cultural logic of American identity. Maurice O. Wallace draws on an impressive variety of material to investigate the survivalist strategies employed by black men who have had to endure the disjunction between race and masculinity in American culture.
Highlighting their chronic objectification under the gaze of white eyes, Wallace argues that black men suffer a social and representational crisis in being at once seen and unseen, fetish and phantasm, spectacle and shadow in the American racial imagination. Invisible and disregarded on one hand, black men, perceived as potential threats to society, simultaneously face the reality of hypervisibility and perpetual surveillance. Paying significant attention to the sociotechnologies of vision and image production over two centuries, Wallace shows how African American men—as soldiers, Freemasons, and romantic heroes—have sought both to realize the ideal image of the American masculine subject and to deconstruct it in expressive mediums like modern dance, photography, and theatre. Throughout, he draws on the experiences and theories of such notable figures as Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, and James Baldwin.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A most impressive interrogation into the problematic of black masculine identity as it has manifested in the U.S. context from the late eighteenth century through the present day. Readers from across a range of disciplines will be uniformly impressed by the scope and dexterity of Wallace’s critical intelligence. This is an overwhelmingly admirable achievement and a very important book.”—Phillip Brian Harper, author of Are We Not Men? Masculine Anxiety and the Problem of African-American Identity

“Highly original and deeply probing in its analyses into the intricacies of its topic, Constructing the Black Masculine is a timely and rewarding addition to the study of African American literature, American studies, and race and sexuality. Maurice O. Wallace has a lot to teach.”—Nellie McKay, coeditor of The Norton Anthology of African American Literature

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822328698
  • Publisher: Duke University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2002
  • Series: A John Hope Franklin Center Book Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 548,625
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Maurice O. Wallace is Assistant Professor of English and African and African American Studies at Duke University.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
Pt. 1 Spectragraphia
1 On Dangers Seen and Unseen: Identity Politics and the Burden of Black Male Specularity 19
Pt. 2 No Hiding Place
2 "Are We Men?": Prince Hall, Martin Delany, and the Black Masculine Ideal in Black Freemasonry, 1775-1865 53
3 Constructing the Black Masculine: Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and the Sublimits of African American Autobiography 82
4 A Man's Place: Architecture, Identity, and Black Masculine Being 108
Pt. 3 Looking B(l)ack
5 "I'm Not Entirely What I Look Like": Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and the Hegemony of Vision; or, Jimmy's FBEye Blues 133
6 What Juba Knew: Dance and Desire in Melvin Dixon's Vanishing Rooms 147
Afterword: "What Ails You Polyphemus?": Toward a New Ontology of Vision in Frantz Fanon's Black Skin White Masks 170
Notes 179
Bibliography 213
Index 227
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