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This book shows how African American literature emerged as a world-recognized literature: less as the product of a seamless tradition of writers signifying upon their ancestors and more the product of three generations of ambitious, competitive individuals aiming to be the first great African American writer. It charts a canon of fictional landmarks, beginning with The House Behind the Cedars and culminating in the National Book Awards Winner Invisible Man, and tells the compelling stories of the careers of key African writers, including Charles Chesnutt, James Weldon Johnson, Jean Toomer, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison. These writers worked within the white-dominated, commercial, Eurocentric literary field to put African American literature on the world literary map, while struggling to transcend the cultural expectations attached to their position as 'Negro authors'. Literary Ambition and the African American Novel tells as much about the novels that these writers could not publish as it does about their major achievements.Read more
- Proposes a new account of how an African American literary canon emerged
- Offers compelling accounts of the struggles of some of the trailblazing African American novelists to establish their careers within the literary world
- Attends to some of the more uncharacteristic, unpublished, and projected works of writers who struggled to resist limiting conceptions of African American authorship
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- Publication planned for: February 2020
- format: Hardback
- isbn: 9781108482073
- dimensions: 228 x 152 mm
- availability: Not yet published - available from February 2020
Table of Contents
1. 'The first Negro novelist': Charles Chesnutt's point of view and the emergence of African American literature
2. James Weldon Johnson's dream of literary greatness and his groundwork for an African American literary renaissance
3. The strange literary career of Jean Toomer
4. Wallace Thurman's judgment and 'this obvious rush toward modernism'
5. Zora Neale Hurston and the great unwritten
6. Richard Wright's compromises: radicalism and celebrity as paths to literary freedom
7. 'Literary to a fault': the singular triumph of Ralph Ellison
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