Postblack Aesthetics

The Freedom to Be Black in Contemporary African American Fiction



‘Postblack Aesthetics’ investigates the changing contours of contemporary African American fiction. It argues that the novels and short stories by Paul Beatty, Trey Ellis, Percival Everett, Charles Johnson (but also white author Adam Mansbach) continue the African American literary tradition even if they do so in satirical, parodic, and highly self-reflexive ways. Through rigorous close readings, the study analyzes form and themes of this fiction as ‘postblack’ (Thelma Golden).

Postblack art engages in complex redefinitions of blackness that transcend confining notions of mimetic literary representation while being aware of continuing social discrimination. In their respective attempts to re-write black fiction, these texts revolve around the central topos of freedom – a freedom from, first and foremost, confining notions of ‘literary’ blackness. Among the crucial questions discussed are: What is a (post)black text? What is a black author? How does blackness figure in contemporary literature?