Black American Literary Involvement in the Southern Gothic: Authorship in the Narrative
Presentation: 9:40 a.m.-10:00 a.m., Kennedy Union 211
“Black American Literary Involvement in the Southern Gothic” utilizes the Gothic as a journey through authorship and narrative. “Southern Gothic” is a literary mode informed by southern tensions and tropes such as grotesque characters, horrific thoughts, and irrational desires. While this genre became increasingly popular during the 20th century thanks to white canonical writers, Black American authors took to the genre to address the repressed racial discomfort hidden in southern history. Black Americans are often in opposition to their white counterparts when overlooked in popular literature. They continue to carry the weight of a haunted and troubling past; they are members of a collective unit subjected to horrendous practices rooted in Jim Crow. Richard Wright, a Black writer haunted by the American South, draws from explicit racial tensions informed by white southern pride to map out the grotesque horror at the expense of Black subjectivity in Southern Gothic fiction. The Black authorship in this genre reinforces the failure of the white world to recognize Black identity as a valuable cultural and literary asset to the canon. Moreover, the Gothic's effects make readers aware of the unjust system that continues to diminish Black self-hood. By examining Richard Wright’s “Big Black Good Man,” compared to Flannery O'Connor's short story "Everything that Rises Must Converge," I intend to evaluate the white gaze in black culture and livelihood through canonical fiction. Highlighting white disruption of the Black body in the genre provides a healthy discourse that continues examinations of race in Southern Gothic narratives. Using the Africanist Presence framework to define the authority that Black authorship produces offers readers an expansive look into understanding the foundation that whiteness and American identity benefit from directly.