Remembering the Past in Contemporary African American Fiction

By Keith Byerman | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Chapter Five

A SHORT HISTORY OF DESIRE
Jazz and Bailey's Cafe

With the emergence of feminist criticism in the past quarter century, desire has become a focal point of theory and critical commentary. It has, of course, been present in literary discourse for much longer, as long as there have been stories of love, greed, and power. But recent emphases on bodies, sexual identities, and repression have sharpened the discussions. Within African American literature and the criticism of it, there has been a reluctance to fully engage these issues, in part because the dominant racial formation has used the language of desire to subordinate black being through representations of the licentious black woman and the black rapist. What can be seen in the works examined in this section is the continuing ambiguity about desire. Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor, and Charles Johnson problematize the expression of physical desire; none of the characters in the novels considered here find contentment in their bodies or their sexuality. Raymond Andrews, while more playful in presenting sexual experience, takes a moral position (through satire) on other forms of desire, such as greed and power. In his case, the erotic serves the purpose of this moral positioning. Thus, even in contemporary texts where black bodies (and sometimes white ones) are central to narrative, the authors experience dis-ease in their representation.

The late 1980s marked the end of a decade in which gender issues among African Americans had been especially contentious. One marker of the beginning of this era was the publication and performance of ntozake shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide… When the Rainbow Is Enuf (1977), with its depictions of the frequently violent nature of men and the need for bonding among black women. Two years later came Michele Wallace's Black Macho and the Myth of the Black Superwoman (1979), which sought to decon

-75-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Remembering the Past in Contemporary African American Fiction
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 228

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?