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Keith Clark Examines Forgotten Fiction of Ann Petry in Next Vision Series

February 22, 2012


Keith Clark

Before the authors Toni Morrison and Alice Walker established their literary credentials, there was Ann Petry.

In the next Vision Series lecture on Monday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m., Keith Clark, Mason associate professor of English and African and African American Studies, will re-examine this author, whom Clark calls a “treasure of African American literature.”

Clark will present “Before Toni Morrison and Alice Walker: The Forgotten Fiction of Ann Petry,” in the Center for the Arts Concert Hall on the Fairfax Campus. Admission to the lecture is free and no tickets are required. An informal reception with light refreshments will follow the presentation.

A novelist and short story writer, Petry (1908–97) is primarily known as the sole woman member of the “Richard Wright school of social protest.” According to Clark, Petry has garnered attention almost exclusively on the basis of her 1946 novel “The Street,” a work that superficially conforms to the dictates of black protest fiction. This lecture will address how gender and the politics of literary expression account for Petry’s relative invisibility in African American/American literary studies.

In addition to exploring Petry’s life and literary output, Clark will discuss his current research project, “The Radical Fiction of Ann Petry: From Gangsta to Gothic.”

Clark is the author of “Black Manhood in James Baldwin, Ernest J. Gaines and August Wilson,” and editor of “Contemporary Black Men’s Fiction and Drama.” He has also written critical essays on Petry, Gaines, William Faulkner and Lorraine Hansberry that have appeared in the Faulkner Journal, African American Review, Callaloo, “Black Women Playwrights: Visions on the American Stage” and “Ann Petry’s Short Fiction: Critical Essays.”

Clark’s teaching interests include masculinity/gender studies, the black coming-of-age story and the African American short story.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary and a doctorate in English from the University of North Carolina.