Date of Award

8-4-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

David Downing, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Mike Sell, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Todd Thompson, Ph.D.

Abstract

The 1950s to the 1980s were a critical period for the twentieth century African American experience in both social and literary terms. This dissertation examines the impact of Black Nationalism and the Black Arts Movement on the development of African American masculinity as well as the African American woman’s depiction of that masculinity in the middle to late twentieth century. Using African American masculinity and African American feminist studies as my framework, I examine the emasculated male characters in three literary works by Black women: A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry; Third Life of Grange Copeland by Alice Walker; and Linden Hills by Gloria Naylor. Considerable scholarship has been dedicated to the issues of womanhood addressed by these authors; however, there remains much to be said about the plight of African American men. Although the works of these women writers were not directly involved in the Black Nationalist and Black Arts Movements of the 1950s to the 1980s, the historical influences on their depictions of masculinity are definitely significant in the male characters that these authors portray. Some critics argue that these particular texts illustrate the archetypal male character because the content champions the causes of African American women and because these authors need to have a voice for the issues of their own doubly burdened race and sex. However, I suggest that these women were also presenting concepts for redefining masculinity. Hence, in this dissertation I scrutinize the three characteristics of this recurring male character who is trapped by his economic circumstances, subjugated to the pressures and standards of white society, and disdainful and misogynistic toward women, especially African American women. I demonstrate how these writers imagine the possibilities for emancipation of the male characters, from their emasculated state.

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