Making the Wright Connection

An Online Community for the Study of Richard Wright

Richard Wright Screen Test for “Native Son”

Posted on October 20, 2011 | No Comments

Richard Wright’s screen test for the role of “Bigger Thomas” in Native Son (1948).

3 scenes, 2 takes each, approximately 7 1/2 minutes

“Black Boy and American Hunger: Richard Wright, Revision, and Narrative Systems”

Posted on October 20, 2011 | No Comments

John Young, Professor of English at Marshall University, shares the abstract of the paper he will present at the forthcoming MLA Annual Convention, January 5-8, 2012.

For 32 years, everyone read the wrong version of Black Boy. The only publicly available version was that which Wright revised at the request of the Book-of-the-Month Club and his influential editor at Harper & Brothers.  American Hunger, originally the second half of Wright’s autobiography, finally appeared on its own in 1977 (though sections had been serialized in 1944 and 1945, surrounding Black Boy’s original publication in the last year of the war).   HarperCollins, the current instantiation of Wright’s original publisher, now issues the “Restored” Black Boy, with revisions for the first editions now relegated to notes.  While the rhetorical marker of a “Restored” edition bestows agency on the editor’s recovery of a lost original, the “Abridged” designation elides the Book Club’s consistent muting of Wright’s sexual and political content, as if the manuscripts had simply run long.

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Zen and the Art of Richard Wright

Posted on October 2, 2011 | No Comments

The Wright Connection is pleased to present the essay “Zen and the Art of Richard Wright” by Terri Havens.  Mr. Havens is currently completing his undergraduate work at Wyoming Correctional Facility, under the direction of Professor Robert Butler, Canisius College, Buffalo, New York.  When he is released from prison, Mr. Havens intends to pursue graduate work.

An excerpt from “Zen and the Art of Richard Wright”:

Time exists for us because we measure it vicariously by observing the movement of things. Consequently, however, we arbitrarily designate point As and point Bs along a seemingly linear construct. And herein lies the problem: we tend to merge these pairs of points and make out of them destinations—that follow one after the other in endless procession—instead of admiring the transitions and transformations these junctions actually represent. Through words Richard Wright would ultimately find freedom, but when we look at his mind’s—and subsequently his craft’s—journey through the metamorphoses of understanding the magic, power, and catharsis of literary expression, we can see a very logical progression that redirects his journey inward with nary a destination in sight.

Through a succession of experiences involving the assimilation and employment of words—or lack thereof, as in the beginning of Black Boy (American Hunger)—Wright shows us this transformation in stark detail albeit with the benefit of hindsight. By focusing on seemingly separate instances throughout his autobiography, the reader can holistically discern a ‘quasi-Sidharthean’ quest for enlightenment. For Wright this takes varying forms and degrees of freedom from an alternation of oppressive environments contained in an early twentieth-century South, an urbanized North of the Twenties and Thirties, and self as positioned not only against environment, but also against his own understanding of self—a oneness only hinted at in Existentialism and exemplified in Zen Buddhism. This transition, and thus his autobiography, would end not in American Hunger but in the thousands of haiku poems he would pen in the last eighteen months of his life under the auspices of self-imposed exile in France.

Read the entire essay:  Zen and the Art of Richard Wright by Terri Havens

More on Professor Robert Butler’s experience teaching Wright to correctional facility inmates.