Cover image for Victims and heroes : racial violence in the African American novel
Title:
Victims and heroes : racial violence in the African American novel
Author:
Bryant, Jerry H., 1928-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Amherst : University of Massachusetts Press, [1997]

©1997
Physical Description:
ix, 374 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781558490949

9781558490956
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library PS374.N4 B74 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

"An original piece of criticism and intellectual history that illuminates the significance of the treatment of violence in the African-American literary tradition". -- Herbert Shapiro


Summary

In fiction written by African Americans, racial violence has been a persistent and conspicuous theme. From whippings, lynchings, and episodes of police brutality to slave rebellions, race riots, and other forms of retaliatory action, black writers have documented the effects of racial violence on the African American community.

Victims and Heroes is the first book to focus exclusively on this topic. Discussing eighty-three novels by sixty-four writers, Jerry H. Bryant proceeds chronologically from the antebellum novels of William Wells Brown and Martin Delany to the contemporary fiction of John Edgar Wideman and Toni Morrison. He explores how changes in the social and political climate have helped to shape various authors' attitudes toward violence, and he charts the profound moral issues that these writers have faced.

Although the viciousness of white violence against blacks would seem to make heroes of those who retaliate in kind, many writers have viewed such actions with ambivalence. If violence is wrong when whites visit it upon blacks, some would argue it cannot be right for blacks to use it against whites, no matter what the provocation. Yet others would respond that to reject retaliation and self-defense is to surrender self-respect. This is the moral quandary at the heart of Victims and Heroes.


Author Notes

Jerry H. Bryant is emeritus professor of English at California State University, Hayward.


Reviews 2

Choice Review

Bryant focuses on the representation of interracial violence in African American novels of the last 150 years. His thesis is that African American novelists have treated with ambivalence counterviolence by blacks as a response to violent whites; he analyzes conflicting positions of approval and condemnation in works ranging from William Wells Brown's Clotel (the first African American novel) to Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon. Through the lens of literature, his book examines subject matter similar to that of Herbert Shapiro's historical study White Violence and Black Response (CH, Dec'88). Bryant's scholarship is thorough and his prose is free of jargon. Comfortable with both 19th- and 20th-century texts, the author provides close readings in the new critical tradition. As is also true of Bernard Bell's groundbreaking The Afro-American Novel and Its Tradition (CH, May'88), the scope of this study necessitates concise analyses. Although some readers may wish for more thorough discussion of particular novelists (for instance, James Baldwin), Bryant does an admirable job of surveying the material. Informative endnotes point the way to related sources. Recommended for all college and university libraries. M. J. Madigan; Nazareth College of Rochester


Choice Review

Bryant focuses on the representation of interracial violence in African American novels of the last 150 years. His thesis is that African American novelists have treated with ambivalence counterviolence by blacks as a response to violent whites; he analyzes conflicting positions of approval and condemnation in works ranging from William Wells Brown's Clotel (the first African American novel) to Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon. Through the lens of literature, his book examines subject matter similar to that of Herbert Shapiro's historical study White Violence and Black Response (CH, Dec'88). Bryant's scholarship is thorough and his prose is free of jargon. Comfortable with both 19th- and 20th-century texts, the author provides close readings in the new critical tradition. As is also true of Bernard Bell's groundbreaking The Afro-American Novel and Its Tradition (CH, May'88), the scope of this study necessitates concise analyses. Although some readers may wish for more thorough discussion of particular novelists (for instance, James Baldwin), Bryant does an admirable job of surveying the material. Informative endnotes point the way to related sources. Recommended for all college and university libraries. M. J. Madigan; Nazareth College of Rochester


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