Cover image for African American satire : the sacredly profane novel
African American satire : the sacredly profane novel
Dickson-Carr, Darryl, 1968-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Columbia : University of Missouri Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xv, 226 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS374.N4 D53 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Satire's real purpose as a literary genre is to criticize through humor, irony, caricature, and parody, and ultimately to defy the status quo. In African American Satire, Darryl Dickson-Carr provides the first book-length study of African American satire and the vital role it has played. In the process he investigates African American literature, American literature, and the history of satire.

Dickson-Carr argues that major works by such authors as Rudolph Fisher, Ishmael Reed, Ralph Ellison, Langston Hughes, and George S. Schuyler should be read primarily as satires in order to avoid misinterpretation and to gain a greater understanding of their specific meanings and the eras in which they were written. He also examines the satirical rhetoric and ideological bases of complex works such as John Oliver Killens's The Cotillion and Cecil Brown's The Life and Loves of Mr. Jiveass Nigger --books that are currently out of print and that have received only scant critical attention since they were first published.

Beginning with the tradition of folk humor that originated in West Africa and was forcibly transplanted to the Americas through chattel slavery, Dickson-Carr focuses in each chapter on a particular period of the twentieth century in which the African American satirical novel flourished. He analyzes the historical contexts surrounding African American literature and culture within discrete crucial movements, starting with the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and ending in the present. He also demonstrates how the political, cultural, and literary ethos of each particular moment is manifested and contested in each text.

By examining these texts closely within their historical and ideological contexts, Dickson-Carr shows how African American satirical novels provide the reader of African American literature with a critique of popular ideologies seldom found in nonsatirical works. Providing a better understanding of what satire is and why it is so important for fulfilling many of the goals of African American literature, African American Satire will be an important addition to African American studies.

Author Notes

Darryl Dickson-Carr is Assistant Professor of English at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Dickson-Carr (Florida State Univ., Tallahassee) situates the African American satirical novel of the 20th century within its political and ideological context. In his introduction, the author defines satire as a subversive art that challenges "cultural icons, popular ideologies and ideologues, political movements and parties, or other widely accepted ideas." In light of this definition, he argues that Zora Neale Hurston's Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939) earns the label of satire because it forms "an allegory that sometimes satirizes the problem of African American leadership." So too does Ishmael Reed's Mumbo Jumbo (1972), which criticizes the "monocultural thinking" of the black aestheticians of the 1960s. A strength of Dickson-Carr's study is its examination of satirical novels either out of print (e.g., John Oliver Killens's The Cotillion, 1971) or made available again recently (Hal Bennett's Lord of Dark Places, 1970, 1997). This volume is a good supplement to Mel Watkins's On the Real Side (CH, May'95), a historical survey of the role of humor, irony, and satire in African American culture. Despite the occasional lapses into jargon, e.g., "cultural authenticity and normativity," this study will provide readers a new consciousness of African American literature inseparable from its ideological past. Recommended for upper-division undergraduates and above. T. L. Jackson St. Cloud State University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Abbreviationsp. xiii
A Note on Usagep. xv
Introductionp. 1
Chapter 1 Sacredly Profane: Toward a Theory of African American Literary Satirep. 14
Chapter 2 Precursors: Satire through the Harlem Renaissance, 1900-1940p. 38
Chapter 3 Channeling the Lower Frequencies: African American Satire from World War II through the Postwar Erap. 82
Chapter 4 "Nation Enough": Black Politics in the 1960s and the Advent of the Multicultural Iconoclastp. 112
Chapter 5 New Politics, New Voices: Black Satire in the Post-Civil Rights Erap. 164
Bibliographyp. 209
Indexp. 221