Richard Wright Native Son movie scene
Richard Wright N alive Son (1940) From 1986 movie adaptation of Native Son

EN 4/6999

Special Topics in English: Richard Wright

M-F 8:00-10:00

Summer Session II

Dr. Donald Shaffer

Richard Wright was born just outside of Natchez, Mississippi. Like another great Mississippi writer, William Faulkner, Wright's literary corpus helped to redefine the constructs of race and identity in American society. Wright's powerful novel of social protest, Native Son, was a bestseller when it was published in 1940 and instantly established Wright's place in the American literary canon. However, the novel also provoked controversy because of its sensational violence and socialist commentary. Its publication was even blocked in some parts of the South. Wright was also criticized by other African American authors, most notably James Baldwin, who argued that his novel portrayed stock caricatures and lurid stereotypes of urban black life. In this course, we will examine Wright's life and literary career in the context of these critical debates and controversies. We will consider most of Wright's major fiction and some of his non-fiction, including his autobiographical work, Black Boy. We will also screen several films, including two cinematic adaptations of Native Son, one in which Wright himself plays the role of his ill-fated protagonist, Bigger Thomas.

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