3.2.3 A Confused Alien in Search of Meaning:
Political and Cultural Context126
Chapter Four: Cursing the White Race132
4.1 Baraka’s Harlem Poetry133
4.2 Trying to Find a New Black Identity145
4.3 African-American Drama and Baraka’s Profound Role152
4.3.1 Dutchman: The Circular Story of the White and Blackness158
4.3.2 The Slave: The Play of Racial Vandalism172
Chapter Five: Constructing a Dissident Subculture187
5.1 African American Poetry and the Role of Amiri Baraka188
5.1.1 Black Nationalist Poetry: Redefinition and Enrichment
of Black Identity193
5.1.2 Shaping a Black Dissident Subculture221
5.1.3 Imamu Amiri Baraka: A Spiritual Leader among Black Americans228
5.2 Revolutionary Playwright: Fighting with the White World230
5.2.1 Experimental Death Unit #1: Planning a Revolution232
5.2.2 A Black Mass: The Intense Hatred of White as the Secondary Race240
5.2.3 Great Goodness of Life: The White Race as a Panoptic Force251
Chapter Six: Universal Dissidence262
6.1 Baraka’s Late Political Poetry and the Global Resistance264
6.2 Tales of the Out and the Gone: Social and Cultural Short Stories286
6.2.1 “War Stories”: Sociopolitical Matters in America
during the 1970s and 1980s289
18.104.22.168 “New & Old”, “Neo-American” and “Mondongo”: Marxist Stories290
22.214.171.124 “From War Stories”: What is True Democracy?303
6.2.2 “Tales of the Out and the Gone”: Revolutionary Disorder306
126.96.36.199 “The Rejected Buppie”: Racial Assimilation and Absurdity309
188.8.131.52 Universal Rottenness and the Appreciation of
Black Music and Culture311
184.108.40.206 “Conrad Loomis and the Clothes Ray”: Playing with Language316
220.127.116.11 “Dream Comics”: Etymological Dissection319
18.104.22.168 “Post- and Pre-Mortem Dialogue”: 9/11 Conspiracy Theories321
Chapter Seven: Conclusion327
7.1 Summing up327
7.2 Findings and Implications339
7.3 Suggestions for Further Research348
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اینجا کلیک کنید
1.1 General Background
In order to get a clear picture of Baraka’s ideology in his literary texts, the researcher intends to begin by Baraka’s biography. Imamu Amiri Baraka (October 7, 1934 – January 9, 2014), also known as Amiri Baraka and Everett LeRoi Jones, the writer of over fourteen volumes of poetry, dramatist (over twenty plays, three jazz operas), essayist (producer of seven volumes of nonfiction), fiction writer (two novels and several volumes of collected short stories), actor, movie director, and political activist, is a unique force in American literature1. He is considered by many to be one of the most influential and preeminent African-American literary figures of our time; for instance, Paul Vangelisti asserts “along with Ezra Pound, may be one of the most significant and least understood American poets
of our century” (Vangelisti xi). In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante registered Imamu Amiri Baraka on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.
His practice as a cultural activist redefined the role of the modern American poet and playwright. He was best known for his powerful contribution, as writer and theorist, to the “Black Arts Movement” of the 1960s—Baraka is known as the founder of this movement. To mix the open forms of Black Mountain School poetry, the 1950s Beats and with the rhetorical and musical traditions of Black culture; he explosively expanded an urgent and aggressive African-American poetry and poetics. Literary historian and critic Arnold Rampersad recognizes Baraka as the main modernizing influence on Black poetry and names him, along with Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967) and others, as one of the eight writers “who have remarkably affected the course of African-American literary culture” (Harris xviii). Langston Hughes’s example and influence on Baraka was extensive and profound, and these two poets are plainly in sympathy in terms of formal experimentation, commitment to audience, and historical consciousness, even to the extent that Hughes’s “Broadcast to the West Indies” (1943) seems to make possible Baraka’s “SOS” (1967), and Baraka’s “When We’ll Worship Jesus” (1975) becomes a later 20th-century treatment of Hughes’s “Goodbye Christ” (1932). Other impacts on Imamu Amiri Baraka’s literary works include Black music especially blues and jazz music and Black American musicians, and the theory and practice of politicized Black American authors, as well as Frederick Douglass (1818 – 1895), W. E. B. DuBois (1868 – 1963), Aimé Césaire (1913 – 2008), and Malcolm X (1925 – 1965) (Kimmelman 30). As a creative and powerful poet since the announcement of his first poems collection, Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note (1961), Amiri Baraka is also considered as a celebrated playwright, essayist, music critic, fiction writer, political activist, movie director, and editor.
Imamu Amiri Baraka was born Everett LeRoy Jones to a lower-middle-class household in Newark, New Jersey in 1934. Baraka’s initial work was published under the name LeRoi Jones. In 1967 Baraka selected the name Ameer Barakat (Blessed Prince), later “Bantuizing or Swahilizing” it to Amiri Baraka (Autobiography 267). He attended Rutgers and Howard Universities before joining the United States Air Force in 1954. His major fields of study were philosophy and religion. He continued his studies of comparative literature at Columbia University. He has taught at several schools, including the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Some of Amiri Baraka’s numerous awards and honors include an Obie Award for his play Dutchman (1964), the American Book Award’s Lifetime Achievement Award (1989), the Langston Hughes Award (1989), and PEN/Beyond Margins Award in 2008 for Tales of the Out and the Gone (2006). In 2001 he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2002, Baraka was appointed to a controversial two-year term as poet laureate of New Jersey. He lived the rest of his life with his second wife, the poet Amina Baraka. Amiri Baraka died in Newark (his birthplace), New Jersey, in January 9, 2014 at the age of 79. His funeral was held at Newark Symphony Hall on January 18, 2014.
Relatively as a result of his capacity for the maximum statement and sense of dramatic timing, Baraka’s work is often seen as belonging to distinctly defined periods, what William J. Harris names as “Beat” (1957 – 1962), “Transitional” (1963 – 1964), “Black Nationalist” (1965 – 1974), and “Third-World Marxist” (1974 – 2014). During the Beat period, Amiri Baraka lived in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village and Lower East Side, setting up a name as a poet and critic, co-editing the avant-garde journals Yugen and Floating Bear with Hettie Cohen and Diane Di Prima, respectively, and associating with avant-garde musicians, visual artists, and poets, including Allen Ginsberg (1926 – 1997), Robert Creeley (1926 – 2005), and Frank O’Hara (1926 – 1966) in the 1950s. In his Autobiography, The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka (1997), Baraka described himself at this time as being ‘“open’ to all schools within the circle of white poets of all faiths and flags. But what had happened to the blacks? What had happened to me? How is it that [there is] only the one colored guy?” (Kimmelman 157).
As a Black poet, playwright, and novelist in America then being transformed by the Civil Rights Movement, Baraka felt a growing dissatisfaction with the role of Black writer as disaffected outsider. A visit to Cuba in 1960 initiated a conscious process of politicization, which eventually resulted in a strong rejection of white aesthetics and society in favor of the separatist Black Arts movement (the incidents were among the first ones that persuaded him to establish a kind of Black “dissident and independent subculture” within the United States and a “universal dissidence” within the whole world), which Larry Neal has defined as “the aesthetic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept” (quoted in Kimmelman 30), although Baraka has identified Black music as being as fundamental to Black Arts as Black revolution.
Imamu Amiri Baraka’s Black Nationalist period was dramatically announced by his refusing of white Bohemian life-styles and his first wife (Hettie Cohen), after the assassination of Malcolm X in February 1965, his following move uptown to Harlem, where he founded the influential Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School, and getting married for the second time with a Black woman Sylvia Robinson (named Amina Baraka after their marriage). Later that year he moved back to Newark where he established the publishing company “Jihad Productions” and the arts space Spirit House, in addition to participating in Black revolutionary politics and politicization. One of his best-known poems of this period, “Black Art” (1966), announces his uncompromising poetics: “We want ‘poems that kill.’ / Assassin poems, Poems that shoot / guns.” For Baraka, the poem becomes a deadly weapon, and poetry—in rejection of W. H. Auden’s well-known dictum to the contrary from “In Memory of W. B. Yeats”—can and will make something happen. Baraka aimed to replace the silent reader of modernist poetry with a charged, thrilled, and articulate audience. His poem “SOS” (1967), both distress call and call to arms, issues an opening salvo to which Black people are asked to respond: “Black people, come in, wherever you are, urgent, calling / you, calling all black people” (Kimmelman 31).
In 1974 Baraka rejected cultural nationalism in favor of Marxism-Leninism as a way forward for Black revolution: “The last writing of this stopped somewhere in 1974, when we had become Communists finally, Amina and I. From there, there has been a whole whirl and world of changes and contradictions, unions and struggles until we gets into 1996” (Autobiography xi). In contrast to Black Nationalism, which he saw as racist, Marxism-Leninism offered solidarity not only among oppressed Blacks in the United States, Africa, and the West Indies, but also among oppressed classes everywhere. About the importance of racism in his life, Baraka stated:
The politics is the underlying catalyst, though. And it always is in all of our lives, were we conscious of it. The fact that I became a Communist is not startling to me, as much of a stomp down cultural nationalist as I at one time was. I was sincere, but I usually always am. The abject racism and economic super exploitation, denial of rights and national oppression, and the imperialist overbeing was pressed upon me even in the eastern city of LaLa Land, “The Village.” It grew, this sense of it, as I grew, intellectually, experientially, ideologically, … whatever. (The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka xi)
Although his “hate whitey” phase was more or less spent, Baraka’s passionate polemic still boiled in his first Marxist volume, Hard Facts (1975). “When We’ll Worship Jesus” exploits Black religious rhetoric while simultaneously ripping it apart, saying that we’ll worship Jesus, “When Jesus blow up / the white house” and “when he get a boat load of ak-47s / and some dynamite.” Baraka, who has resoundingly replaced the hesitant “I” of his early poetry with the collective “we,” declared “we can change the world / we aint gonna worship jesus cause jesus don’t exist” (“When We’ll Worship Jesus”). The intensely musical “In the Tradition” (1982), dedicated to avant-garde jazz musician Arthur Blythe, shows Baraka at the top of his form, hooking together references to the great artistic and political traditions of Black leadership in a loose and exuberant rap: “our fingerprints are everywhere / on you America, our fingerprints are everywhere” (“In the Tradition”).
One of the paradoxes of Amiri Baraka’s poetry, fiction, and drama is the continued power of his literary works, old and new, to stir strong reactions despite their obvious grounding in specific historical contexts. His poems do not grow stale, perhaps because of their outrageous energy and humor. Baraka continued to be a poet of his time, as indicated by the Internet circulation of his poem, “Somebody Blew up America,” written shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The poem is a blasting indictment of white greed throughout history and became controversial because of its anti-Semitic questions: “Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed / Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers / To stay home that day,” and Baraka’s subsequent statement that the Bush administration had advance knowledge of the attacks. Baraka’s refusal to resign as poet laureate led the New Jersey State Senate Government Committee to vote for a bill eliminating the position.
Imamu Amiri Baraka’s political and literary writings have created disputes over the years, especially his support of rape and severity towards (in various times during his long career) white people, gay people, and Jews. Analysts of Amiri Baraka’s writing have repeatedly explained such utilization as ranging from being vernacular utterances of Black oppression to complete instances of anti-Semitism, sexism, racism, homophobia, and that they regard in his works. Throughout his more than five decades of literary career, Amir Baraka has been discriminated against due to the racist and political attitudes.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The present dissertation seeks to closely scrutinize Amiri Baraka’s identity formation (during more than five decades of literary career) and read his selected literary works (including his poetry, drama and fiction) in terms of Political Criticism and Cultural Materialism concepts of power, resistance, ideology, dissidence and subversion with especial reference on political criticism and historical issues. Imamu Amiri Baraka’s major literary works, including drama, poetry, and fiction, that will be studied in this dissertation are: Dutchman (1964), one act play, The Slave (1964), a two act play, Experimental Death Unit #1 (1965), A Black Mass (1966), Great Goodness of Life (1967), The System of Dante’s Hell (1965), a novel that Baraka wrote in his youth, Transbluesency, selected poems from 1961 to 1995, Somebody Blew up America and Other Poems (2004), a short collection of Baraka’s late poems, and Tales of the Out and the Gone (2006), a short story collection. By focusing on these literary works, the researcher aims to analyze Baraka’s identity formation through the passage of time.
In reading and analyzing Amiri Baraka’s literary works, the readers/critics often confront with the concept of the “aggressive” and “revolutionary” Black man. These notions usually appear in the form of insanity, irrationality, brutality, and violence. There are also readers/critics who even accused him of “hate” and having a brain empty of humanity (a humanity which is often attributed to the white people!). In reading Baraka’s literature, one wonders whether these characteristics are real or fake. In other words, could these features, being aggressive and revolutionary, be a construction of a system that aims to define African Americans? Are they the effect of an oppressive system/ideology with many restrictions and prescriptions upon the Black Americans, or are they the African Americans’ means of self-definition and self-affirmation in a society that rejected their real and independent identity? If we accept that Baraka’s literature is aggressive and hateful—by deliberately adopting these strategies—does it threaten the White dominant power/ideology that has branded African Americans as the second race in order to contain them?
The significance of Imamu Amiri Baraka’s literary works lies in their extraordinary ability to move the reader deeply with their depictions of cruelty, violence, suffering, desire, and love. His literary works, which are mingled with political issues, historical incidents, and cultural events, also raise questions of different ideologies and the practice of power in different dominant and subculture societies. They can be studied under the light of Political Criticism and Cultural Materialism, concentrating on race, power relations, dissidence, subversion, hegemony, ideology, and class issues. Therefore, the researcher needs to focus on the theories of Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, and Alan Sinfield.
Where numerous earlier critical approaches to literary texts presumed the text had some universal importance and essential a-historical truth to impart, Cultural Materialist (and New Historicist) critics prefer to read literary texts as material products of specific historical conditions. Cultural Materialism approaches the relationship between text and context with an urgent attention to the cultural and political consequences of literary interpretation. In the eyes of Cultural Materialist critics, texts of all kinds are the vehicles of politics insofar as texts mediate the fabric of social, political and cultural formations. Cultural Materialists argue that literature does have powerful effects on history, and vice versa, and have paid considerable attention in their works to the effects of literature in both containing and promoting subversion, and to instances of state and hegemonic control over cultural expression.
Amiri Baraka’s literary works aim to subvert the principles of humanist view by replacing the appeals to tradition and humanity with a call to the democratic ideals of potential, difference and the collective definition of cultural, social and political goals. In this way, Amiri Baraka in his own poetry, drama, and fiction regarded literary and cultural criticism as participating in politics, active in reinforcing, dissenting form, or opposing, conservative orthodoxies. To study Amiri Baraka’s literary works with the views of Political Criticism and Cultural Materialism, it reveals that the autonomous individual to be an ideological construct and a vehicle of state power and ideology. Baraka’s literary texts explore power relations in the contemporary context which reminds the views of the well-known philosopher and archeologist Michel Foucault. In other words, Baraka’s poetry, drama and fiction always have a material function within contemporary power structures. But in contrast with the theories of Foucault, Baraka’s literary texts search the possibility of resistance and defiance against the dominant power in order to construct Black “dissident subcultures” and “universal dissidence” in a broader scale.
One of the major areas to study the theory of dissident subcultures is in Amiri Baraka’s dramatic plays. For instance, his famous political play Dutchman (1964), during the playwright’s so-called “Transitional Period,” is an emotionally charged and highly symbolic version of the Adam and Eve story, wherein a naive bourgeois Black man is murdered by an insane and shrewd white seductress, who is coldly preparing for her next victim as the curtain comes down. The emotionally tight, psychological verbal fencing between Clay (the Black Adam) and Lula (the white Eve) spirals irreversibly to the symbolic act of violence that will apparently repeat itself over and over again. But Baraka’s aim of this play, to resist the dominant White culture and ideology, is one of mythical proportions, a ritual drama that has a sociological purpose to motivate his audience into revolutionary action. Baraka’s other dramatic plays which are under scrutinizing in this study, The Slave (1964), Experimental Death Unit 1 (1965), A Black Mass (1966) and Great Goodness of Life (1967), follow the same political revolutionary issues that results to the formation of Black people’s dissidence in the dominant white society of the United States.
The next zone to study the issues of resistance and dissidence against the dominance is in Baraka’s poetry. For example, in one of his best-known poems, which is the manifestation of Black Arts Movement, “Black Art” (1966), Baraka announces his uncompromising poetics: “We want ‘poems that kill.’ / Assassin poems, Poems that shoot / guns.” For Baraka, the poem becomes a liberating weapon to indicate self-reliance of Blackness, a device of resistance, and mediation of dissidence and subversion. He believed that poetry can and will make something happen. Baraka aimed to replace the silent reader of modernist poetry with a charged, elated, and articulate audience.
The other example of Baraka’s poetry is “Somebody Blew up America” (2002), one of his recent and famous poems in the late era of his literary career which is about two hundred forty lines long. In this controversial poem, in the entrance of twenty-first century, Baraka showed his Marxist-Leninist ideas, which is different from his Black Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s. It asks some basic and significant questions about what took place on September 11, 2001. In this poem, Baraka is concerned about the oppressed people all over the world (“universal dissidence”). The researcher attempts to argue that Amiri Baraka’s poetry has enhanced and refreshed the lives of many revolutionary people all over the world, the force of his work is meant to disturb the reader’s peaceful acceptance of the terrors and vices of this world. The truth of Baraka’s poems will live on as long as we respect the power of the literary texts and the sanity with which it captures the attempt of all oppressed people all over the world. The major concern of “Somebody Blew up America” is one of the examples of an especial opinion that the present researcher suggests and tries to prove through the textual analysis in this research, a shift from “dissident subcultures” to “universal dissidence” in the last period of Baraka’s literary career which is known as “Third-World Marxist-Leninist Period.”
The last part in this study is Amiri Baraka’s fiction. His short stories collection, Tales of the Out and the Gone, and specifically his novel, The System of Dante’s Hell (1965), also depict the manipulation of defiance, resistance, subversion, and dissident subcultures by Black people among the White-dominated people. For example, The System of Dante’s Hell (1965) is organized in a way similar to The Inferno. However, the reader of this novel is hard-pressed to find willingly apparent parallels between the two works. This difficulty lies primarily in the enigmatic, fragmentary style of Baraka. The System of Dante’s Hell is a loosely structured, highly suggestive, and strongly ‘autobiographical’ work of fiction. As in all of Baraka’s writings, the most pervasive theme of The System of Dante’s Hell is that of “racial identity.” The protagonist’s struggle is the same as that confronted by the character Clay in the play Dutchman. Roi is cut between the route of self-denial on the one hand and the way of authentic Black identity on the other. The focus of this theme is emphatically underscored in Baraka’s characterization of those he called “Heretics,” individuals whom he located in “the deepest part of hell” because of their maniacal pursuit of assimilation. The book proliferates with satirical snapshots of leaders and aspiring leaders of the Black middle class, all twisted by cultural shame and motivated by the immense desire to distance themselves as far as probable from their Black roots.
This research aims to put Amiri Baraka’s selected literary works within material contexts (social, political and cultural) in order to represent that his literary texts are bound with repressive and dominant ideologies (e.g. Neo-Colonialism, Capitalism and Imperialism), yet they provide space for dissidence. By focusing on Cultural Materialism, this dissertation intends to show the material function of Baraka’s selected literary works in order to reveal the contradictions within the power relations in the United States. It also attempts to represent the material manifestations of different ideologies. The role of Baraka’s literary texts within the contemporary context of politics and culture will be scrutinized, too. This study aims to highlight the minor, ignored and subversive voices within Baraka’s works. The researcher analyzes Baraka’s literary texts with their relationship to the surrounding historical, political and cultural events. Therefore, social, political and cultural influences on the production of Amiri Baraka’s literary texts are at the center of attention in this study.
1.3 Objectives and Significance of the Study
1.3.1 Significance of the Study
The significance of the present dissertation is discussable both on the literary as well as on the cultural, social and political levels. This research hopes to discuss Black Americans’ (and all the oppressed people’s) attempts to rescue their effaced identity and stifled voice in order to overcome the predicament. The value of this study is increased by the recognition of Baraka’s (African Americans’) discontent with the outcome of Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, a movement which was primarily designed for the freedom of all Black people. Furthermore, since the identity constituents of race and class have always been used by the dominant class to oppress and marginalize the minority groups on the social and political level, the results of the present dissertation will hopefully contribute Black Americans and other oppressed groups to come out the limitations and prescriptions defined by the hegemonic White bourgeois dominance.
Amiri Baraka’s selected literary works (poetry, drama, and fiction) can be studied under the light of the critical approach Cultural Materialism because the focus of Baraka’s works is on the possibilities of defiance and subversion, the bifocal perspective on the past and the present, the belief that both the object of his literary works and the methods that he used are forms of dissidence, the view that all forms of representation are engaged in social, cultural, and political struggle. The significance of Baraka’s poetry, drama, and fiction lies not only in their extraordinary ability to affect the reader in proceeding from sentence to sentence and from page to page, to move intensely with their depictions of cruelty, suffering, longing, and love, to give pleasure even when they dispirit and disturb, but also in the way they raise and illuminate questions of immense practical importance to all of us.
This is a significant political study which concentrates on the subjects of “dissident subcultures,” “universal dissidence,” and their significance in Imamu Amiri Baraka’s poetry, drama, and fiction. As far as the present researcher knows, nobody has considered Baraka’s literary works with the political and cultural theories of Cultural Materialism. In order to understand Amiri Baraka’s literary works, it is necessary to get familiar with the importance of Political Criticism. In this regard, different theoretical and philosophical ideas of Political Criticism and Cultural Materialism views by various critics like Karl Marx (1818 – 1883), Antonio Gramsci (1891 – 1937), Michel Foucault (1926 – 1984), Louis Althusser (1918 – 1990), Raymond Williams (1921 – 1988), Jonathan Dollimore (1948 – ) and Alan Sinfield (1941 – ) will be examined to elaborate the definition and importance of the concept of “dissident subcultures” and “universal dissidence.” In order to elaborate Political Criticism, the present researcher must begin his theoretical study from Marx to Raymond Williams as background, but the focus of this study is on the views of Cultural Materialism, especially the notion of “reading dissidence” by Alan Sinfield. Such a study of Amiri Baraka’s writings can pave the way for further researches on his literary works in the light of Cultural Materialism studies.
This research is not only an application of Political Criticism and Cultural Materialism’s theories on Imamu Amiri Baraka’s literary works, but also as an interaction between the historical, philosophical and political texts on the one hand and the literary texts of Amiri Baraka on the other. The present researcher introduces the history and meaning of the Political Criticism and Cultural Materialism, and then tries to elaborate the notion of dissidence and reading dissidence in literary works of Amiri Baraka. In other words, this research tries to indicate and trace the hidden power of Afro-Americans’ dissidence in the White-dominant American society. Regarding the views mentioned above, the present researcher begins from Marx and elaborates the history of Political Criticism, and then focuses on Alan Sinfield’s views, dissidence and reading dissidence, and proposes two terms in Amiri Baraka’s selected literary works—“dissident subcultures” and “universal dissidence”—that as far as the present researcher knows nobody suggested before. This is also a textual analysis which tries to prove the mentioned claims through the act of close reading.
Colored people in general and Black Americans specifically have been suppressed socially, politically and culturally during the previous centuries. They have been regarded as the second race or the “other.” Amiri Baraka was one of the pioneering African American writers in the second half of the twentieth and the first decade of twenty-first centuries who reacted against this ideology. Some critics have considered Amiri Baraka as the poet/artist of hate. However, the present researcher attempts to argue for the opposite. Baraka’s literary texts, set in a close association between historical and cultural events, are the reactions against the three hundred years of slavery and oppression in relation with the contemporary issues. There is a reciprocal relationship between Baraka’s literary works (including his poetry, drama and fiction) and the historical incidents in the United States and the whole world. Baraka’s literary texts, as vehicles of power, can be analyzed in close connection with the ideas of creating “dissident subcultures” and “universal dissidence” against the dominant powers/ideologies such as the neo-colonialism, capitalism and imperialism. They aim to subvert the dominant power/ideology, set by white people, and establish an independent black subculture or even a black world.
1.3.3 Purpose of the Study
The objective of the present research is to study Amiri Baraka’s literary texts (poetry, drama and fiction) in his four distinctly divided and defined periods named as “Beat” (1957 – 1962), “Transitional” (1963 – 1964), “Black Nationalist” (1965 – 1974), and “Third-World Marxist” (1974 – 2014). This dissertation especially intends to delve further into Amiri Baraka’s art commonly known as the revolutionary and aggressive literature. The study is going to be conducted in order to explore how the oppressed people, especially Black Americans, can claim their identity outside of the logocenteric world (dominance), created by the White ideology, so as to overcome their positions as the second race or the subaltern. In this regard, the present researcher first needs to find the relationship between the historical, cultural, social and political movements such as the Civil Rights Movements and Black Arts Movement and Baraka’s literary works’ attempts to overcome different forms of racial oppression. In case, the influence of the mentioned historical movements is revealed, it is incumbent upon the present researcher to discover whether Black Americans must create new theories and develop new movements such as constructing dissident subcultures and universal dissidence. Therefore, part of the present research is devoted to discovering how Black people, especially African American intellectuals like Amiri Baraka, living at the intersection of identity, can seek freedom outside the framework defined by the white’s dominance. This investigation is done through the careful study of some selected literary works (poetry, drama and fiction) by Amiri Baraka whose ideologies and characters are entangled to succeed in this enterprise.
Furthermore, to overcome African Americans’ voicelessness, the present dissertation aims to reveal how Amiri Baraka can construct a discourse that would protect the oppressed people against the repressive reign of the dominant White ideology (or fight with the oppressors)—by the possibility of creating a resistant subculture or a universal dissidence—and, hence, ensure their success. On the other hand, the researcher attempts to deconstruct some of Baraka’s concepts in order to show the contradictions in his literary works. The lack of any serious study in analyzing Baraka’s literary works under the light of Cultural Materialism made the present researcher more determined to attempt to contribute a valuable dissertation and significant findings to human knowledge. To be brief, within the scope of Baraka’s selected literary works, some concepts such as race, identity, ideology, class, power, resistance and subversion serve as the basis in formulating the research questions.
1.3.4 Research Questions
The following questions are raised to be answered in Imamu Amiri Baraka’s selected poems, plays, short stories and novels considering different aspects of Cultural Materialism and “reading dissidence”:
1. What is the definition of “reading dissidence” and what are the features of “dissident subcultures” and “universal dissidence” according to Imamu Amiri Baraka?
2. How defiance, subversion, dissidence, resistance, and other forms of political opposition, are articulated, represented, and performed in Imamu Amiri Baraka’s poetry, drama and fiction?
3. How are power relations of contemporary American society manifested in Baraka’s literary works, and what are the conditions of instability in Baraka’s poetry, drama and fiction?
4. In what ways is the movement from “dissident subcultures” to “universal dissidence” represented in Baraka’s literary works?
5. How can Black people and low class people in general be considered “dissident subcultures” and “universal dissidence” in Amiri Baraka’s literary works?
These questions will be addressed in the succeeding chapters of this dissertation, and the results shall be offered in the section “Findings and Implications” of the last chapter. The exploration of the above questions supports the argument that Amiri Baraka’s literary works stage irruptions of “dissident subcultures” and “universal dissidence” into our familiar world, moving from margin to the center and vice versa.
1.4 Literature Review