This book critically examines classic works of literature and film to suggest ways in which study of fictional characters, cultural themes, and vivid imagery helps us to grapple with, understand, and find resolutions for, problems that seriously concern Americans, including uniformed officers and public officials, as well as the general populace in today’s turbulent times. Chapter 1 analyzes Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Tony Scott’s Enemy of the State to support the author’s theory that contemporary police violence against young African-American men is a result of “persistence of vision” whereby the powerful Fugitive Slave Laws of the American Civil War era exert a continuing influence upon the minds of law enforcement officers and almost all African Americans. Chapter 2 “Zora Neale Hurston: Africa Transported to America” discusses Jonah’s Gourd Vine and Their Eyes Were Watching God to reveal the West African Vodun cosmological theology that informs and determines the lifelong trajectory of macho male protagonist John Buddy Pearson and feminist female protagonist Janie Mae Crawford in their quests for love and spiritual fulfillment. She suggests the Civil War disrupted a theological affinity shared by African Americans with Christian Americans, a kinship at the heart of Hurston’s oeuvre. Chapter 3 reveals the West African origin of the theological design in Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Paramo: A Novel of Mexico and in short fiction works by several contemporary Mexican writers while also investigating the impact, in particular the toll in human suffering, of violent confrontations taking place along the border shared by Mexico and the U.S. Her critical analysis highlights the stream of consciousness narrative technique, which probes the depths of human agony exacted by violations of international boundaries. She demonstrates Shakespeare’s influence. Moreover, as a specialist in Comparative and English Literature, she contributes to Shakespeare scholarship on Hamlet, Prince of Denmark unprecedented insight into the meaning and significance of King Hamlet’s ghost, expanding traditional Christian perspectives and providing historical and textual explications that encompass West African Vodun cosmology. Dr. Watanabe diagnoses Hamlet’s madness as a funky aspect of Shakespeare’s knowledge of “voodoo.”
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About the Author
Nancy Ann Watanabe is Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Oklahoma, on assignment as Research Professor, University of Washington. Dr. Watanabe is the author of award-winning books on William Butler Yeats and Joyce Carol Oates and critical essays in academic books and journals. Her honors include Fulbright, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Mortar Board, and National Endowment for the Humanities faculty fellowship awards.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: African-American Heroism in Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Enemy of the State
Chapter 2: Zora Neale Hurston: Africa Transported to America
Chapter 3: Black African Spectral Dynamics in Contemporary Mexican Fiction: Shakespeare’s Hamlet Revisited