Dina Karageorgos, "Richard Wright's Search for a Method"
Chapter One is organized around Richard Wright’s poetic revaluation of Marx. Opening with Wright’s provocative statement in which he professes his allegiance to “Marx as a poet” rather than political philosopher, this chapter uses Wright’s Delphic utterance—so far unexplored by critics—to construct a narrative account of his development of a non-objective Marxist aesthetic. The focus here is on the early stages of Wright’s development, beginning with his reading of Kenneth Burke, from whom he appropriates, virtually in name alone, the idea of a “poetic” Marx, to his deployment of this principle in his “poetic revision” of Native Son. Following these discussions, I will look backward. Both “Blueprint for Negro Writing,” (1937) Wright’s earliest articulation of Marx’s relationship to literary form, and “Between Laughter and Tears,” (1937) Wright’s rebuke of an African American literary folk sensibility, anticipate Wright’s development of a dialectical literary sensibility. Although they remain somewhat outside our primary narrative, they too are essential coordinates in our inquiry into the origins of Wright’s style.
Though the narrative does not always proceed chronologically, it reaches a definite historical end in 1946, the year in which Wright began work on The Outsider (1953). The logic here is to provide both the theoretical and empirical foundation necessary for an historical and stylistic reappraisal of Wright’s most misunderstood novel, the subject of Chapter Two.