John Edgar Wideman's Homewood Trilogy: Wideman’s Folk Vision

By Raymond Janifer.

Published by The International Journal of Literary Humanities

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

When John Edgar Wideman wrote his first three novels - A Glance Awa y (1967), Hurry Home (1970) and The Lynchers (1973) - he received harsh criticism from the practitioners of the Black Arts Movement. These critics like Baraka and Gayle demanded a black nationalistic aesthetic, and they attacked Wideman’s early novels for their lack of ‘authentic’ African American voice. However, his next three novels comprising his Homewood Trilogy- Hiding Place (1981), Damballah (1981), and Sent for You Yesterday (1983) utilized the Black English Vernacular (BEV) and African American folklore in highly imaginative ways that mitigated their nationalistically based criticisms. He began directing his fiction towards a postmodern vision of African American culture as a complex pastiche similar to Henry Louis Gates’ blues matrix where color is an important variable, but only one of many complex fluctuating factors impacting his African American characters’ existential choices. This paper explains Wideman’s artistic explorations that evolved after his early experiments with modernistic stylistic idiosyncrasies in his first three novels, and how he circumvented the socio-political pressure of the Black Arts Movement. Emerging as one of the most important African American writers of the post-1960s he developed his own unique voice that he initially displays in his Homewood Trilogy (1981-1983).

Keywords: African American Literature and Culture, Black Nationalistic Aesthetic Postmodernism

The International Journal of Literary Humanities, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp.35-42. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 450.206KB).

Dr. Raymond Janifer

Professor of English and Ethnic Studies, English Department, Ethnic Studies Program, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, USA

Dr. Raymond E. Janifer is a professor of English and former director of the Ethnic Studies Program at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania in the US. He received his doctoral degree in rhetoric and composition from Ohio State University in 1996, and he also holds a M.F.A. degree in professional writing from the University of Southern California, a MA degree in English language and literature from the University of Chicago, and a BA degree from Millersville University in English. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the African American novelist John Edgar Wideman and maintains a primary research interest in the relationship between African American literature and folklore.