chapter  7
9 Pages

Voices of Double Consciousness in African American Fiction: Charles W. Chesnutt, Zora Neale Hurston, Dorothy West, and Richard Wright

Contrary to the arguments of many postmodern, poststructural, and postcolonial critics, most African American theorists and critics, espe­ cially proponents of African American double consciousness, do not claim that black Americans are biologically or culturally pure. African Americans are a biracial and bicultural people. It should be self-evident, therefore, that like its mixed European American stepbrother, the African American novel is a hybrid form. Rather than the culmination of an evolutionary process in the narrative tradition, it is the product of social and cultural forces that shape the author's attitude toward life and that fuel the dialectical process between romantic and mimetic narrative impulses. In contrast to the European American novel, how­ ever, the African American novel has its roots in the combined oral and literary tradition of African American culture. It is one of the sym­ bolic literary forms of discourse that black Americans have borrowed from Western culture and adapted in their quest for status, power, and identity in a racist, white, patriarchal North American social arena. The African American novel, in other words, is not a solipsistic, selfreferential linguistic system, but a symbolic sociocultural act.