American Body Politics
Race, Gender, and Black Literary Renaissance

Felipe Smith


"A well realized book. Grounding his argument in a detailed description of the contexts influencing turn of the century African American literature, Felipe Smith demonstrates quite clearly how particular gender images emerge in association with specific social, political, and economic pressures."
—Craig H. Werner, author of Playing the Changes: From Afro-Modernism to the Jazz Impulse

"An ambitious and thorough examination of race politics and society as reflected in African American literature."
Negro History Bulletin

Body politics have played a decisive role in American literature, especially in the work of African Americans, whose sensitivity to the tradition of misrepresenting black bodies in American culture has left indelible traces. In American Body Politics Felipe Smith tracks the emergence of particular gender images in association with specific social, political, and economic pressures and explores the impact of interrelated discourses on race, gender, and nation upon the development of African American literature from the turn of the century to the early modern period. Smith focuses on gender images such as the white witch, black madonna, mammy, and white lady and examines the broad utility of body images in the discourse of black national belonging. In response to literary criticism that brackets the politics of representation under the phrase "extra-literary concerns," Smith articulates a theoretical approach that investigates the "extraliterary" as the source of some of the most powerful and enduring figurative and mythical constructs in the black writing tradition. American Body Politics is a remarkable synthesis of historical readings combined with a highly original contribution to the comprehension of racial thought and literary writing.

Page count: 440 pp.
Trim size: 6.125 x 9.25


List price: $51.95

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Felipe Smith is an associate professor of English at Tulane University.