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Title: Masculinity in contemporary African-American fiction : reading Edward P. Jones' The known world, David Bradley's The Chaneysville incident and Gayl Jones' Corregidora
Author: Kassem, Niveen
Awarding Body: University of Newcastle Upon Tyne
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis reads the representations of black masculinity in three contemporary American novels, David Bradley’s The Chaneysville Incident (1981), Edward P. Jones’ The Known World (2003) and Gayl Jones’ Corregidora (1975), and demonstrates that all three, in their different ways, connect black manhood with the traumatic history of slavery. Male identities threatened and problematised by slavery are, the thesis suggests, inherited by modern African–American culture. Considering the ways in which these identities resurface in these contemporary novels thus offers insight into the ways in which black masculinity, while apparently condemned to recycle the paradigms of the past, can be seen to re-make and redefine them. In its analysis of Henry Townsend in The Known World, a figure who follows the established discourses of white power, the suggestion is that even as he enacts these ideological forces he simultaneously undermines them through his rejection of hierarchical definitions based on the laws of property ownership. The desire to become a slaveholder and be accepted by upper-class white society is an attempt to constitute his manhood according to the legal framework underlying the institution of slavery. Even as he does this, however, Henry cannot entirely leave his past behind and he finds himself torn between white southern definitions of masculinity and those associated with his slave past. Similar tensions can be seen in the hustler manhood of Moses Washington in The Chaneysville Incident. While attempting to resist the power structures through his criminal activities, he finds himself imitating the agrarian capitalistic principles underlying the practice of slavery. Like Henry, Moses perpetuates the discourses of slavery, embracing the power structures that created slavery as a paradigm on which to model his masculinity. The hypothesis is that both Henry’s and Moses’ expressions of masculinity are actually following definitions of manhood inherited from both the discourses of white power and the Africanised self-definitions of African-Americans evolving since slavery, and, therefore, cannot be viewed as alternative masculinities for African–American culture. In contrast to this reading of Henry and Moses, the thesis goes on to suggest that the figure of Mutt in Corregidora can be regarded as an attempt to delineate a paradigm of masculinity that breaks more effectively with the past. Instead of imitating abusive models of manhood, the novel ultimately resists such violence and rejects processes of emasculation. This thesis, therefore, offers an insight into how the historical emasculation of African–Americans has shaped and is still shaping definitions of black identity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Ministry of Higher Education Syria ; Al Ba’ath University in Syria
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available