Following the reading of the three pieces of literature in class so far, along with the supplementary theoretical underpinnings of race, ‘blackness’, and African American literature, my project has evolved significantly. While before I was focused on the interplay between policy and art to examine whether there is a relationship between the two, I have now moved (thanks to Dr. Littler’s suggestion) to concentrate on the relationship that African Americans [and by extension their counterparts, the white demographic] portrayed through the literature have with their society.
This will be predicated on W.E.B. Dubois’ conception of double consciousness.
Initially, I intend to examine the simultaneous within and without through a close analysis of the use of Greco-Roman mythology in African American literature. As the Greco-Roman tradition is central to the foundation of the western academic canon, I am curious to see what an African American appropriation of this tradition looks like, and how it is perceived more widely. I am also keen to understand why this appropriation has occurred and the significance that it has in the self-conception of race. I will use the literature read so far in the course (Ragtime, The Known World, The White Boy Shuffle) to conduct close readings to further my case.
Secondly, I will investigate the within and without element present in American society, and why it exists on a normative level. This will involve some digging around on a philosophical level to determine a full understanding of the root of Dubois’ double consciousness (Hegel, Rousseau). I also intend to examine the legal double consciousness and how policy (I had to sneak it in somewhere) has altered, or if it has altered, an understanding of race in America.
Finally, if possible and if relevant, I will examine Dubois’ assessment of the souls of white folk. This would develop work conducted in class thus far (especially following Skiffington in The Known World and Father in Ragtime as just two examples) on the impact race relations have on white characters in African American literature. This would be a fascinating line to follow, though I am nervous there will not be a great amount of scholarship available upon which to mount any evidence.
While to conduct all three is a large project, I am comfortable to follow strands to reasonable conclusions and assess whether they are worth following. For example, should there be very little scholarship to assess regarding Greco-Roman mythology in African American literature then that avenue will not be followed closely and I shall move on to another option, as listed above.