Art Sanctuary & Moonstone Present
The Radical Fiction of Ann Petry
Thursday October 31, 2013 -7pm
A Talk by Keith Clark
Art Sanctuary, 628 S. 16th Street, 215-232-4485
In his in-depth analysis of the works of Ann Petry (1908–1997), Keith Clark moves beyond assessments of Petry as a major mid-twentieth-century African American author and the sole female member of the “Wright School of Social Protest.” He focuses on her innovative approaches to gender performance, sexuality, and literary technique. Engaging a variety of disciplinary frameworks, including gothic criticism, masculinity and gender studies, queer theory, and psychoanalytic theory, Clark offers fresh readings of Petry’s three novels and collection of short stories. He explores, for example, Petry’s use of terror in The Street, where both blacks and whites appear physically and psychically monstrous. He identifies the use of dark comedy and the macabre in the stories “The Bones of Louella Brown” and “The Witness.” Petry’s overlooked second novel, Country Place—set in a deceptively serene Connecticut hamlet—camouflages a world as nightmarish as the Harlem of her previous work. While confirming the black feminist dimensions of Petry’s writing, Clark also assesses the writer’s representations of an array of black and white masculine behaviors—some socially sanctioned, others taboo—in her unheralded masterpiece The Narrows and her widely anthologized short story “Like a Winding Sheet.” Expansive in scope, The Radical Fiction of Ann Petry analyzes Petry’s unique concerns and agile techniques, situating her among more celebrated male contemporary writers.
Keith Clark is Associate Professor of English and African American Studies. He earned a B.A. from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA (1985), and a Ph.D. in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1993). He is the author of The Radical Fiction of Ann Petry, Black Manhood in James Baldwin, Ernest J. Gaines and August Wilson and editor of Contemporary Black Men’s Fiction and Drama. His critical and pedagogical essays have appeared in such publications as The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, Callaloo, African American Review, and The Faulkner Journal. His most recent publications include: a co-authored introductory essay, “Melodramas of Beset Black Manhood? Meditations on African-American Masculinity as Scholarly Topos and Social Menace,” for a special edition of Callaloo (Vol. 26, 2003) on black literary masculinity; and “‘From a Thousand Different Points of View’: The Multiple Masculinities of Ann Petry’s ‘Miss Muriel'” in Ann Petry’s Short Fiction: Critical Essays. His teaching interests include masculinity/gender studies, the black bildungsroman, and the African American short story. In addition to his academic interests, he is involved in several community service projects related to mentoring, tutoring, and providing meals for AIDS patients.