Constructing the Black Masculine: Identity and Ideality in African American Men's Literature and Culture, 1775-1995

By Reiter, Shannon | Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA), September 2005 | Go to article overview

Constructing the Black Masculine: Identity and Ideality in African American Men's Literature and Culture, 1775-1995


Reiter, Shannon, Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA)


Constructing the Black Masculine: Identity and Ideality in African American Men's Literature and Culture, 1775-1995 Maurice O. Wallace. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002.

Constructing the Black Masculine provides a fascinating, thought-provoking look at how conceptions of black masculine identity have come to be formed by the "monocularistic (flat, dissociative, fixed) gaze" of Western whites. From the earliest black American fraternities of the eighteenth century to thoroughly modern twentiethcentury images, Wallace traces the construction of black masculine identity through such varied media as photography, autobiography, freemasonry, architecture, narrative, and dance. Along the way, he pauses to consider several figurative works of literature and infuses his analysis with the theoretical approaches of Dernda, Foucault, and Bourdieu, among others. Indeed, Wallace skillfully weaves elements of several cultural genres into an interdisciplinary study of African American masculinity. Eminently relevant and generously illustrated, this text provides an important window into how vision, image, and representation have functioned to construct the black masculine and to what ends.

Wallace presents what he terms an "ocularcentric thesis" (5): that the black male body is at once both too little seen and too much seen. As a result, the racialist gaze fixes (or "frames," in photographic terms) the black male in stereotypic representations. This inability to "see" black subjects clearly has vast implications, and Wallace works to illuminate "how dangerously reductive, how morally wounding, the machinations of colonial enframing can be" (173). He insists that our ocular orientation is not inherently problematic; it is our monocular vision that results in the worst kind of representation: two-dimensional dichotomous paradigms of seeing the not-self within such binaries as "master/slave, subject/ object, black/white, colonizer/colonized, either/ or" (177). Wallace uses each chapter of his book to demonstrate how black men have responded to the racialist gaze, noting that artistic forms such as architecture and dance can be seen as weapons of protection in the psychological warfare being waged on black male identity.

Leaping back and forth between examples of photographic and narrative pictorialization, Wallace applies his ocular thesis to the realms of freemasonry, autobiography, architecture, dance, and the FBI surveillance of Richard Wright and James Baldwin. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

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.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

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

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Constructing the Black Masculine: Identity and Ideality in African American Men's Literature and Culture, 1775-1995
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

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?

Full screen

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.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

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.