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The Radical Fiction of Ann Petry

264 pages / 5.50 x 8.50 inches / no illustrations

ebook available

Literary Studies | Literature - African American

  Hardcover / 9780807150665 / June 2013

In his in-depth analysis of the works of Ann Petry (1908–1997), Keith Clark moves beyond assessments of Petry as a major mid-twentieth-century African American author and the sole female member of the “Wright School of Social Protest.” He focuses on her innovative approaches to gender performance, sexuality, and literary technique. 

Engaging a variety of disciplinary frameworks, including gothic criticism, masculinity and gender studies, queer theory, and psychoanalytic theory, Clark offers fresh readings of Petry’s three novels and collection of short stories. He explores, for example, Petry’s use of terror in The Street, where both blacks and whites appear physically and psychically monstrous. He identifies the use of dark comedy and the macabre in the stories “The Bones of Louella Brown” and “The Witness.” Petry’s overlooked second novel, Country Place—set in a deceptively serene Connecticut hamlet—camouflages a world as nightmarish as the Harlem of her previous work. While confirming the black feminist dimensions of Petry’s writing, Clark also assesses the writer’s representations of an array of black and white masculine behaviors—some socially sanctioned, others taboo—in her unheralded masterpiece The Narrows and her widely anthologized short story “Like a Winding Sheet.” 
Expansive in scope, The Radical Fiction of Ann Petry analyzes Petry’s unique concerns and agile techniques, situating her among more celebrated male contemporary writers.

Keith Clark is the author of Black Manhood in James Baldwin, Ernest J. Gaines, and August Wilson and the editor of Contemporary Black Men’s Fiction and Drama. He is an associate professor of English and African American studies at George Mason University.

Praise for The Radical Fiction of Ann Petry

“[Clark is] an astute and close reader of literary texts. . . . Clark has given to teachers, students (undergraduate and graduate), scholars, and others who enjoy reading, discussing, and rediscovering Ann Petry a very welcomed inclusion.”—Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature

“[A] groundbreaking study. . . . Keith Clark’s book does an excellent job of re-evaluating Petry, as it reveals the depth and dimension of a writer whose full importance in the literary canon is vastly underestimated by critics; it is a very important book that makes a significant contribution to the study of African American and American literature.”—African American Review

“Its grounding in masculinity studies enables The Radical Fiction of Ann Petry to introduce a more daring and complicated writer than we have previously recognized.”—Women’s Review of Books

“Clark’s admirable effort to situate Petry within the long tradition of American literature is both valuable and, at times, surprising. . . . Clark finds in Petry a largely novel approach to masculinity, a unique adoption of the American gothic, and a radical underappreciation of her fiction.”—Studies in American Naturalism

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