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4. Pragmatism, Power, and the Politics of Aesthetic Experience

Jeanne Follansbee Quinn

Subject Literature » American Literature

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

Key-Topics novel and novella, power, pragmatism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631206873.2009.00007.x


In the culminating scene of “Long Black Song,” the third and central story in Uncle Tom's Children , Richard Wright's 1940 collection of stories, Sarah watches helplessly from a knoll above her house as a lynch mob seeks retribution for her husband's murder of a white gramophone salesman. As the cars approach, Sarah experiences a moment in which she senses a still-inchoate link between the black and white men who are poised to kill each other. Somehow, men, black men and white men, land and houses, green cornfields and grey skies, gladness and dreams, were all a part of that which made life good. Yes, somehow, they were linked, like the spokes in a spinning wagon wheel. She felt they were. She knew they were. She felt it when she breathed and knew it when she looked. But she could not say how; she could not put her finger on it and when she thought hard about it it became all mixed up, like milk spilling suddenly. Or else it knotted in her throat and chest in a hard aching lump, like the one she felt now. ( Wright 1940/1993 : 154) The scene captures a stunning contradiction between Sarah's vision of natural racial harmony and the “old river of blood” enacted in the violent conflict between her husband, Silas, and his white adversaries (p. 154). The abstract image of black and white men interconnected like the spokes of a wagon wheel stands in stark contrast to the knot in her ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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