The Radical Fiction of Ann Petry

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This welcome study delivers a long-overdue analysis of the works of Ann Petry (1908- 1997), a major mid-twentieth-century African American author. Primarily known as the sole female member of the ""Wright School of Social Protest,"" Petry has been most recognized for her 1946 novel The Street, about a woman's struggle to raise her son in a hardscrabble Harlem neighborhood. Keith Clark moves beyond assessments of Petry as a sort of literary descendent of Richard Wright to acclaim 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. Clark explores, for example, Petry's use of terror in The Street, where both blacks and whites appear physically and psychically monstrous. He also identifies the use of dark comedy and the macabre in her startling depictions of race, class, gender construction, and sexual identity in the stories ""The Bones of Louella Brown"" and ""The Witness."" Petry's overlooked second novel, Country Place - set in a deceptively serene, bucolic Connecticut hamlet- camouflages a world as palsied and 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 transgressive and 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 foregrounds and analyzes Petry's unique concerns and agile techniques, re-introducing and situating her among more celebrated male contemporaries.

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Louisiana State University Press
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