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