Looking for Harlem

Looking for Harlem : Urban Aesthetics in African-American Literature

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Taking the incredible flowering of African-American literature in the 1920s as its starting point, Looking for Harlem offers a cogent and persuasive new reading of a diverse range of twentieth-century black American writing.

From the streets, subways, hotels and cabarets of New York's Harlem and Chicago's Southside, Maria Balshaw moves beyond the canon to encompass often neglected writing by Rudolph Fisher, Wallace Thurman and Claude McKay, as well as the more familiar work of Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Nella Larsen and Toni Morrison. In a provocative revision of African-American literary history, Balshaw examines the creation of an `urban aesthetic' and explores the links between the engagement with the city and fictional reconstructions of racial identity and race writing. Focusing on the material culture of the city, the visual sense of the urban environment, the class dynamics of urban culture and the crucial importance of consumerism, this study presents a critically astute, challenging and very welcome new approach to a much-studied area of contemporary American fiction.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 184 pages
  • 135 x 215 x 13.21mm | 272.16g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • notes, bibliography, index
  • 0745313345
  • 9780745313344

Table of contents

Introduction: Harlem on my Mind

1. 'Black was White', New Negroes, New Spaces

2. Whose City? Policing Race and Space

3. Women in the City

4. Passing and the Spectacle of Harlem

5. A Dream Deferred? The City After 'Harlem'

6. 'I love this city': Contemporary Reflections on Harlem


Notes and Bibliography

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About Maria Balshaw

Maria Balshaw CBE is the first female director of the Tate art museums and galleries and the former director of the Whitworth and Manchester City Art Gallery. She is the author of Looking for Harlem (Pluto Press, 2000) and is the co-editor of Urban Representations (Pluto Press 1999).
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