Making the Wright Connection

An Online Community for the Study of Richard Wright

A Very Average Negro?: Using Richard Wright’s Life to Teach African-American History

Posted on March 16, 2011 | No Comments

Jennifer Wallach Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. CST
Taught by Jennifer Wallach, Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Texas

Abstract: When explaining his decision to write his autobiography, Black Boy, Richard Wright once remarked that he did so in part because he realized that he was a “very average Negro.” He hoped that his story would be read as representative of the experiences of others who lacked his access to the reading public. Due to his extraordinary talent and unprecedented success as an African-American novelist, his claim initially sounds like false modesty. However, it also manifests his sensitivity to the fact that he did not walk through history unaccompanied. This seminar will demonstrate how Richard Wright’s life can be used as an example for teaching many aspects of African-American history. Topics covered will include Reconstruction, the Great Migration, African-American life during the Great Depression, and various African-American cultural and political responses to racial oppression.

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Autobiographical Elements of Richard Wright’s Haiku

Posted on February 28, 2011 | No Comments

Toru KiuchiTuesday, May 17th, 2011 at 6:00 p.m. CST
Please join us for a FREE virtual seminar led by Toru Kiuchi, Professor of English at Nihon University in Japan

Click here to join the seminar!

Abstract: 95.7 per cent of Wright’s haiku carry a season word. It was easier for Wright to return to his childhood memory of Mississippi, which was full of trees and flowers, than to use images taken from Paris. Sick in bed in Paris, Wright must have been trying to find a season word without going out, recalling his childhood days in Mississippi, which was “a whole world of emotion, of sounds and scents and colours.” Composing haiku, Wright returned not only to his childhood, but also to Chicago and New York days. Accordingly, his haiku comprise quite a few autobiographical elements in them. This lecture makes clear how Wright include his autobiographical factors in the composition of his haiku.

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Upcoming Virtual Seminars

Posted on February 1, 2011 | No Comments

The virtual seminar series is intended as an extension of the on-campus summer institute. The series provides a forum for Wright scholars from around the world to share their work and to engage in dialogue with one another. The seminars are hosted through the Adobe Connect platform and thus you need only a computer with an internet connection to participate.

Toru Kiuchi, Professor of English
Nihon University
Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 6:00 p.m. CST

Jennifer Wallach, Assistant Professor of History
University of North Texas
Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. CST

Amritjit Singh, Langston Hughes Professor of English
Ohio University
Saturday, April 23, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. CST

Abdul JanMohamed, Professor of English
University of California (Berkeley)
Saturday, April 30, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. CST

Richard Wright’s Haiku and Modernist Poetics

Posted on November 26, 2010 | No Comments

Yoshinobu HakutaniBelow you will find an audio podcast of “Richard Wright’s Haiku and Modernist Poetics,” a online seminar conducted by Yoshinobu Hakutani on November 20, 2010. The seminar was the first online seminar of the 2010 NEH-sponsored summer institute entitled Making the Wright Connection: Reading Native Son, Black Boy and Uncle Tom’s Children. Running time – 1 hour and 11 minutes.

Richard Wright’s Haiku and Modernist Poetics

Posted on October 20, 2010 | No Comments

Yoshinobu HakutaniSaturday, November 20, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. CST
Taught by Yoshinobu Hakutani, Distinguished Professor of English at Kent State University

Wright learned how to write haiku from R. H. Blyth, who had published a number of books on Japanese haiku after World War II. Unlike Western romantic poetry and even the earlier Japanese poetry called waka, haiku, as Blyth observed, “is as near to life and nature as possible, as far from literature and fine writing as may be, so that the asceticism is art and the art is asceticism.” Blyth’s definition of haiku as an ascetic art means that classic haiku by such masters as Basho, Buson, and Issa, which Wright emulated, strictly concern objects and phenomena in nature. In composing a haiku the poet must, at first, observe an object or phenomenon in nature from a perspective devoid of thoughts and feelings. Only after the poet attains that stance and vision will the poet be able to achieve a harmonious union with nature. Although Wright emulated classic haiku, he consciously or unconsciously departed in many of his haiku from the classic poetics in which the poet effaces human subjectivity. Much like Ezra Pound, who wrote several haiku-like poems in which he expressed the subject’s desire, Wright wrote many haiku in which subjectivity is expressed through the use of a personal pronoun and the subject’s desire is evoked in an image that reflects subjectivity. Subjectivity and desire, its dominant construct, are both expressed through pronominal language rather than through an image in nature that embodies the real or the unconscious. Because Wright wrote haiku under the influences of classic Japanese haiku poets in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, perhaps two thirds of his haiku can be categorized as traditionalist haiku, in which an image of nature is the focus of the poem and subjectivity is absent. The rest, a third of his haiku, might be called modernist.

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