Rinehartism: Representations of race in contemporary African American literature
Rinehartism: Representations of Race in Contemporary African American Literature examines how various African American authors have attempted to define race in their narratives as well as addressing the implications of such definitions, particularly in relation to issues of community formation and racial leadership. Authors have challenged both essentialist notions of race and refused to embrace facile post-race notions by crafting multiple formulations of racial constructs that embrace rather than resist flux. While, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, thinkers such Trey Ellis drew on the black power era concept of a "Black Aesthetic," calling new developments the rise of a "New Black Aesthetic," Ellis' discussion of "cultural mulattos" who were equally capable of discoursing about mainstream white culture as black culture is but one element among many in contemporary racial discourse. Similarly, authors such as Aaron McGruder and Paul Beatty extend discussions of a "post-soul" culture, discussed by Mark Anthony Neal and Nelson George among others, pointing to the burden that comes with the successes of the Civil Rights and Black Power generation, forcing contemporary African Americans to attempt to advocate for social change in the shadow of icons such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. The representations of race found within these works of art are not unequivocally positive evocations of a newly narrativised and malleable racial identity, but reflect the deep challenges facing a community that lacks a static definition of what constitutes it, particularly in relation to who will continue to lead and advocate for change, as such change remains to be made. By examining canonical authors (such as Charles Johnson and Ishmael Reed) as well as works from popular culture (the crime fiction of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines), African American drama (Suzan-Lori Parks), and multiple mediums (the comic strip and television show The Boondocks), I argue for a critical discussion of contemporary African American literature as dynamic and diverse as the works it examines.
0325: Black studies
0591: American literature