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Speaking the Grotesque: The Short Fiction of Gayl Jones

Speaking the Grotesque: The Short Fiction of Gayl Jones Speaking the Grotesque: The Short Fiction of Gayl Jones by Casey Clabough Most [of the stories in White Rat] are written in fi rst person and most deal with tensions in relationships, dynamics of psychology—psychic landscape—and . . . the ‘inward.’ —Gayl Jones in Rowell, “Interview,” 49 Several reviewers of Gayl Jones’s fi rst two controversial novels, Corregidora (1975) andEva ’s Man (1976), sought to interpret the books primarily in terms of their dark violent and even gothic qualities, muf- fl ing the formidable aesthetic dynamics of those works beneath the sen- sational, problematic vividness of their respective brutal episodes. Crit- ics of Eva’s Man in particular used the novel’s literal and psychological violence to accuse the text of social and aesthetic irresponsibility. For ex- ample, Loyle Hairston attacked the book for its “squalid appraisal of the souls of Black folks” (133), while John Updike lamented, “[T]he char- acters are dehumanized as much by her [Jones’s] artistic vision as by their circumstances” (“Eva and Eleanor” 75). Summing up the major- ity of early critical reactions to the book, Clarence Major characterized Jones’s second novel as a “sad, dark chant ridden with sex and blood” (834). Amid this stormy climate http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Southern Literary Journal University of North Carolina Press

Speaking the Grotesque: The Short Fiction of Gayl Jones

The Southern Literary Journal , Volume 38 (2) – May 31, 2006

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2006 the Southern Literary Journal and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of English.
ISSN
1534-1461

Abstract

Speaking the Grotesque: The Short Fiction of Gayl Jones by Casey Clabough Most [of the stories in White Rat] are written in fi rst person and most deal with tensions in relationships, dynamics of psychology—psychic landscape—and . . . the ‘inward.’ —Gayl Jones in Rowell, “Interview,” 49 Several reviewers of Gayl Jones’s fi rst two controversial novels, Corregidora (1975) andEva ’s Man (1976), sought to interpret the books primarily in terms of their dark violent and even gothic qualities, muf- fl ing the formidable aesthetic dynamics of those works beneath the sen- sational, problematic vividness of their respective brutal episodes. Crit- ics of Eva’s Man in particular used the novel’s literal and psychological violence to accuse the text of social and aesthetic irresponsibility. For ex- ample, Loyle Hairston attacked the book for its “squalid appraisal of the souls of Black folks” (133), while John Updike lamented, “[T]he char- acters are dehumanized as much by her [Jones’s] artistic vision as by their circumstances” (“Eva and Eleanor” 75). Summing up the major- ity of early critical reactions to the book, Clarence Major characterized Jones’s second novel as a “sad, dark chant ridden with sex and blood” (834). Amid this stormy climate

Journal

The Southern Literary JournalUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: May 31, 2006

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