F.B. Eyes (häftad)
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Short-listed for Choice Magazine Outstanding Reference/Academic Book Award 2015
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F.B. Eyes (häftad)

F.B. Eyes

How J. Edgar Hoover's Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature

Häftad,  Engelska, 2016-12-06
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Few institutions seem more opposed than African American literature and J. Edgar Hoover's white-bread Federal Bureau of Investigation. But behind the scenes the FBI's hostility to black protest was energized by fear of and respect for black writing. Drawing on nearly 14,000 pages of newly released FBI files, F.B. Eyes exposes the Bureau's intimate policing of five decades of African American poems, plays, essays, and novels. Starting in 1919, year one of Harlem's renaissance and Hoover's career at the Bureau, secretive FBI "ghostreaders" monitored the latest developments in African American letters. By the time of Hoover's death in 1972, these ghostreaders knew enough to simulate a sinister black literature of their own. The official aim behind the Bureau's close reading was to anticipate political unrest. Yet, as William J. Maxwell reveals, FBI surveillance came to influence the creation and public reception of African American literature in the heart of the twentieth century. Taking his title from Richard Wright's poem "The FB Eye Blues," Maxwell details how the FBI threatened the international travels of African American writers and prepared to jail dozens of them in times of national emergency. All the same, he shows that the Bureau's paranoid style could prompt insightful criticism from Hoover's ghostreaders and creative replies from their literary targets. For authors such as Claude McKay, James Baldwin, and Sonia Sanchez, the suspicion that government spy-critics tracked their every word inspired rewarding stylistic experiments as well as disabling self-censorship. Illuminating both the serious harms of state surveillance and the ways in which imaginative writing can withstand and exploit it, F.B. Eyes is a groundbreaking account of a long-hidden dimension of African American literature.
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Winner of a 2016 American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2015 A St. Louis Post-Dispatch Best Book of 2015 Shortlisted for the 2016 MSA Book Prize, Modernist Studies Association "[An] immensely important story about the black authors that we thought we knew, from the 'notorious negro revolutionary' Claude McKay to the Black Arts poet Sonia Sanchez... [A] welcome model for seeing state interference in culture as a two-way street."--Los Angeles Review of Books "F. B. Eyes is pitched at both academic and general readers. It makes an unexpected addition to studies of twentieth-century African American literature and succeeds in presenting J. Edgar Hoover as a more complex figure than James Baldwin's telling description of him: as "history's most highly paid (and most utterly useless) voyeur."--Douglas Field, Times Literary Supplement "[A] bold, provocative study... Maxwell's passion for the subject spills onto every page of his detailed, persuasive documentation that 'the FBI [was] an institution tightly knit (not consensually) to African-American literature.'"--Publishers Weekly (a Publishers Weekly pick of the week) "[S]tartling... Much of what Maxwell has discovered ... paints a sobering picture of state-sanctioned repression and harassment over decades. It's a tribute to the strength of the panoply of FBI-targeted writers, intellectuals and leaders that they, for the most part, toughed it out and remain with us today as a fundamental part of the fabric of American history and letters."--Repps Hudson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch "[T]his well-researched volume illustrates the paranoia and self-censorship that altered the course of African American literature for decades as a result of the bureau's surveillance. This scholarly work will appeal to academic readers with a particular interest in African American literature or the FBI."--Library Journal "[T]he book's fresh perspective on the FBI's fitful tango with both its targets and its own intentions gives twenty-first-century artists potentially more daring variations, in the NSA age, on the arch replies of Wright, Ellison, Hughes, et al., to the spies. But the prospect can never neutralize the queasy, infuriating sense of so much officially sanctioned energy-squandering on generations of writers who wanted little more than to be taken more seriously than their ancestors... The lurid and revealing testimony collected in F.B. Eyes calls to mind the sage counsel offered by John le Carre's fictitious traitor in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: Secret services, he explains, are 'the only real measure of a nation's political health, the only real expression of the subconscious.'"--Gene Seymour, Bookforum "F.B. Eyes is a startling look at how racism has influenced the highest levels of authority."--John T. Slania, Book Page "[R]iveting... F.B. Eyes is scintillating scholarship; for those invested in the literary and extra-literary lives of African American authors it holds all the intrigue of a pulp spy novel."--Adam Bradley, Chronicle Review "[Maxwell] brilliantly and chillingly examines how for 50 years Hoover and the FBI monitored the literary production of African American writers... The volume reads like a detective thriller as it uncovers what Maxwell calls the 'ghostreading' practices of the FBI."--Choice "Professor Maxwell's book and ... website are a treasure trove for readers and researchers alike, especially those with an interest in political history and literary history."--Robin Lindley, History News Network "Wickedly amusing... Genius."--Alan M. Wald, Modern Philology "Solid and often eye-opening."--John Woodford, Against the Current "Maxwell does an excellent job in thoroughly exploring FBI investigati

Övrig information

William J. Maxwell is professor of English and African and African American studies at Washington University in St. Louis. His F.B. Eyes Digital Archive presents copies of 51 of the FBI files discussed in this book:


Acknowledgments xi Introduction 1 The FBI against and for African American Literature 1 The Files and the FOIA 7 Five Theses and the Way Forward 15 Part One/Thesis One: The Birth of the Bureau, Coupled with the Birth of J. Edgar Hoover, Ensured the FBI's Attention to African American Literature 25 The Bureau before Hoover 29 Hoover before the Bureau 35 Bureau of Letters: Lit.-Cop Federalism, the Hoover Raids, and the Harlem Renaissance 42 Part Two/Thesis Two: The FBI's Aggressive Filing and Long Study of African American Writers Was Tightly Bound to the Agency's Successful Evolution under Hoover 59 Flatfoot Montage: The Genre of the Counterliterary FBI File 63 The Counterliterary State and the Charismatic Bureaucracy: Trimming the First Amendment, Fencing the Harlem Renaissance 68 Persons to Racial Conditions: Literary G-Men and FBI Counterliterature from the New Deal to the Second World War 76 Afro-Loyalty and Custodial Detention: Files of World War II 85 Total Literary Awareness: Files of the Cold War 94 COINTELPRO Minstrelsy: Files of Black Power 107 Part Three/Thesis Three: The FBI Is Perhaps the Most Dedicated and Influential Forgotten Critic of African American Literature 127 Reading Like a CIA Agent 131 Reading Like an FBI Agent 141 Critics behind the Bureau Curtain: Meet Robert Adger Bowen and William C. Sullivan 150 Ask Dr. Hoover: Model Citizen Criticism and the FBI's Interpretive Oracle 165 Part Four/Thesis Four: The FBI Helped to Define the Twentieth-Century Black Atlantic, Both Blocking and Forcing Its Flows 175 The State in the Nation-State; the State of the Transnational Turn 180 The State of Black Transnationalism; the State in the Black Atlantic 186 Checking Diasporan ID: Hostile Translation and the Passport Office 195 State-Sponsored Transnationalism: The Stop Notice and the Travel Bureau 205 Jazz Ambassadors versus Literary Escapees 212 Part Five/Thesis Five: Consciousness of FBI Ghostreading Fills a Deep and Characteristic Vein of African American Literature 215 Reading Ghostreading in the Harlem Renaissance: New Negro Journalists and Claude McKay 225 Invisible G-Men En Route to the Cold War: George Schuyler, Langston Hughes, and Ralph Ellison 232 Mysteries and Antifiles of Black Paris: Richard Wright, William Gardner Smith, and Chester Himes 243 Black Arts Antifiles and the "Hoover Poem": John A. Williams, James Baldwin, Sam Greenlee, Melvin Van Peebles, Ishmael Reed, Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, and Sonia Sanchez 259 Bureau Writing after Hoover: Dudley Randall, Ai, Audre Lorde, Danzy Senna, and Gloria Naylor 269 Appendix: FOIA Requests for FBI Files on African American Authors Active from 1919 to 1972 277 Notes 285 Works Cited 315 Index 343