Chip Taylor Communications

Subject: History

Europe and America in the Modern Age Series

Stanford University Professors James Sheehan and David Kennedy present in-depth lectures on the concept of liberalism as a theoretical framework for examining the interrelationships between the histories of Europe and America. Produced by the Stanford University Channel. Programs available on 20 individual Click for more

16. Liberal Society: Reflections on Wright's "Native Son"

16. Liberal Society: Reflections on Wright's

Since its inception, liberal American society has endeavored to meet the needs of an extraordinarily diverse population in a manner consistent with its founding principles of freedom, liberty, and equality. Nowhere has this challenge been more evident than with the issue of race relations in the United States. In this program Professor David Kennedy discusses dilemma of race in America. He focuses on author Richard Wright, whose disturbingly powerful 1940 novel Native Son was believed by many to have transformed American attitudes about race. In that novel, Wright provided a stark contrast to the nurturing tranquility of Black family life portrayed by Harriet Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom's Cabin, by deliberately inverting prevailing literary themes and presenting a disaffected lead character who was immersed in disorder, squalor, murder, and mayhem. Kennedy believes that Wright was strongly influenced by Marxist ideology, having been a member of the Communist Party of America between 1934 and 1937. Wright felt that Marxism was the only ideology that adequately explained the revolutionary experience of Blacks in racially oppressed America. Kennedy contends that Wright's novel Native Son was in the final analysis not an indictment of democracy or racism in America. Instead it was a compelling portrayal of the potentially disintegrating effects inherent to all societies that promote individualism at any cost. 99/10DE SCA 55 min.

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