Faculty Book: Robert Reid-Pharr
Once You Go Black: Choice, Desire, and the Black American Intellectual
(NYU Press, 2007)
At its most elemental Once You Go Black is an homage to Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and other post-World War II intellectuals who, Robert Reid-Pharr asserts, announced the very themes of race, gender, and sexuality that now engage so many contemporary critics. It is also a reconsideration of black Americans as agents, and not simply products, of history. Turning first to the late and relatively obscure novels of Wright, Ellison, and Baldwin, Reid-Pharr suggests that each of these authors, rejecting the idea of the black as innocent, insisted upon the responsibility of all citizens—even the most oppressed—within modern society. Shuttling between queer theory, intellectual history, literary close readings, and autobiography, the author makes an impassioned, eloquent, and elegant plea to bring the language of choice into the study of black American literature and culture. Robert Reid-Pharr is a professor of English at the Graduate Center.
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Submitted on: JUL 1, 2007