Roger Rosenblatt's book Black Fiction, in attempting to apply literary rather than sociopolitical criteria to its subject, successfully alters the approach taken by most previous studies. As Rosenblatt notes, criticism of Black writing has often served as a pretext for expounding on Black history.Addison Gayle's recent work, for example, judges the value of Black fiction by overtly political Standards, rating each work according to the notions of Black identity which it propounds.
Although fiction assuredly springs from political circumstances, its authors React to those circumstances in ways other than ideological, and talking about Novels and stories primarily as instruments of ideology circumvents much of the fictional enterprise. Rosenblatt's literary analysis discloses affinities and connections among works of Black fiction which solely political studies have overlooked or ignored.
Writing acceptable criticism of Black fiction, however, presupposes giving satisfactory answers to a number of questions. First of all, is there a sufficient reason, other than the racial identity of the authors, to group together works by Black authors? Second, how does Black fiction make itself distinct from other modern fiction with which it is largely contemporaneous? Rosenblatt shows that Black fiction constitutes a distinct body of writing that has an identifiable, coherent literary tradition. Looking at novels written by Blacks over the last eighty years, he discovers recurring concerns and designs independent of chronology. These structures ‘are thematic, and they spring, not surprisingly, from the central fact that the Black characters in these novels exist in a predominantly white culture, whether they try to conform to that culture or rebel against it.
Black Fiction does leave some aesthetic questions open. Rosenblatt's thematic analysis permits considerable objectivity; he even explicitly states that it is not his intention to judge the merit of the various works yet his reluctance seems misplaced, especially since an attempt to appraise might have led to interesting results. For instance, some of the novels appear to be structurally diffuse. Is this a defect, or are the authors working out of, or trying to forge, a different kind of aesthctic? In addition, the style of some Black novels, like Jean Toomer's Cane, verges on expressionism or surrealism; does this technique provide a counterpoint to the prevalent theme that portrays the fate against which Black heroes are pitted, a theme usually conveyed by more naturalistic modes of expression?
In spite of such omissions, what Rosenblatt does include in his discussion makes for an astute and worthwhile study. Black Fiction surveys a wide variety of novels, bringing to our attention in the' process some fascinating and little-known works like James Weldon Johnson's Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. Its argument is tightly constructed, and its forthright, lucid style exemplifies levelheaded and penetrating criticism.
The author of the passage objects to criticism of Black fiction like that by Addison Gayle because it
A.Emphasizes purely literary aspects of such fiction
B.Misinterprets the ideological content of such fiction
C.Misunderstands the notions of Black identity contained in such fiction
D.Substitutes political for literary criteria in evaluating such fiction
E.Ignores the interplay between Black history and Black identity displayed in such fiction
The author of the passage is primarily concerned with
A.Evaluating the soundness of a work of criticism
B.Comparing-various critical approaches to a subject
C.discussing the limitations of a particular kind of criticism
D.Summarizing the major points made in a work of criticism
E.Explaining the theoretical background of a certain kind of criticism
The author of the passage believes that Black Fiction would have been improved had Rosenblatt
A.Evaluated more carefully the ideological and historical aspects of Black fiction
B.attempted to be more objective in his approach to novels and stories by Black authors
C.Explored in greater detail the recurrent thematic concerns of Black fiction throughout its history
D.Established a basis for placing Black fiction within its own unique literary tradition
E.assessed the relative literary merit of the novels he analyzes thematically
The author's discussion of Black Fiction can be best described as
A.Pedantic and contentious
B.Critical but admiring
C.Ironic and deprecating
D.Argumentative but unfocused
E.Stilted and insincere
The author of the passage refers to James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiogrdphy of an Ex Colored Man most probably in order to
A.Point out affinities between Rosenblatt’s method of thematic analysis and earlier criticism
B.Clarify the point about expressionistic style made earlier in the passage
C.Qualify the assessment of Rosenblatt’s book made in the first paragraph of the passage
D.Illustrate the affinities among Black novels disclosed by Rosenblatt's literary analysis
E.give a specific example of one of the accomplishments of Rosenblatt's work