Merle King Professor of Modern Letters, Professor of English and
Professor of African & African-American Studies,
Washington University in Saint Louis
About the Seminar
Black Boy is one of the most famous, and one of the most controversial, autobiographies by an American writer. In some ways, it has a traditional narrative trajectory: from innocence to experience, from small town to big city, from repression to autonomy. Yet in its intricate meshing of life in the barbaric Jim Crow South with the angst of growing up misunderstood and maltreated by his family and peers, Black Boy is both a testament against racism and one of the great accounts of adolescent rebellion.
It was originally published without Wright’s account of his joining the Communist Party while he lived in Chicago. This was published years later as a separate volume entitled American Hunger. The book has since been reunited as a whole. Why did Wright write it? How did it affect his reputation? What sort of book is it politically? Artistically? What is its place in the American literary canon? What is its place in African American letters?
Online EvaluationOnline evaluation for seminar participants.
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- Black Boy, by Richard Wright (any edition is fine)