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Black IntersectionalitiesA Critique for the 21st Century$
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Monica Michlin and Jean-Paul Rocchi

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781846319389

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781846319389.001.0001

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Richard Wright’s Poetics of Black Being: Metaphor, Desire, and Doing

Richard Wright’s Poetics of Black Being: Metaphor, Desire, and Doing

(p.158) 11 Richard Wright’s Poetics of Black Being: Metaphor, Desire, and Doing
Black Intersectionalities

Rebecka Rutledge Fisher

Liverpool University Press

Richard Wright, who highly valued and regularly profited from textual metaphors that revealed both a critical ontology and a critical epistemology, calls our attention to metaphorical matters when he opines in “Blueprint for Negro Writing” (1937) that the “image and emotion” of literature “possess a logic of their own.” Wright insists that affect and imagery – including figures of language such as conceptual metaphors – are capable of granting form, meaning, and access to a new and better world. The novella The Man Who Lived Underground (1944), paradoxically points the way to life in such a world through the complexities of its philosophical metaphors. In this chapter, I examine how in Underground, Wright puts into practice what Paul Ricoeur describes as metaphor’s knowledge of its relation to being. In Wright’s hands, his novella’s metaphor of psychic and bodily descent is emblematic of archetypal, ontological metaphors of death and life, guilt and freedom, time and space, and memory and oblivion — the very sorts of metaphors that have historically served as conduits of the African American text’s existential demands.

Keywords:   Being, conceptual metaphor, critical ontology, epistemology, Existentialism, The Man Who Lived Underground, Paul Ricoeur, Richard Wright

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