Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Author Spotlight, Darryl Dickson-Carr

By: Sarah Mason, Sales Intern

Dickson-Carr is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in English at Southern Methodist University, where he teaches courses in twentieth-century American literature, African American literature, and satire. He is the author of The Columbia Guide to Contemporary African American Fiction (Columbia UP, 2005), which won an American Book Award in 2006, and African American Satire: The Sacredly Profane Novel (2001). He is completing Spoofing the Modern: Satire in the Harlem Renaissance and is our latest author spotlight!

What inspired you to write “African American Satire”?

The genesis of African American Satire may be found in work I did early in my graduate school career many years ago. I'd planned to study the history of satire when I began my program, and did so enthusiastically. I simultaneously found my interest in African American literature growing as another generation of scholars—Houston A. Baker, Jr., Hazel Carby, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Bernard W. Bell, Trudier Harris, Arnold Rampersad, Frances Smith Foster, among others—opened up numerous possibilities for studying the tradition from a myriad of critical perspectives. As I studied these two fields, I found it curious that very little information could found on African American satirical literature. A few people had written critically about African American humor, but seldom about satire, much less literary satire. With the supervision of my advisors and the help of research assistants, I started researching and writing what would eventually become African American Satire to fill that gap.

"African American Satire" is about looking at some authorss' writings in others ways. What ideas or events do you encourage readers to reconsider and think differently about?

African American Satire asks readers to recognize a couple of central ideas. First, I highlight where satirical modes—expressive approaches, if you will—may be found throughout African American literary and cultural traditions. Second, satire by African Americans has been ignored or dismissed because it challenges prevailing ideas of a particular time, whether within or without African American communities. In addition, since it is to misunderstand satire or to conflate satirical humor with racist, stereotypical views of African Americans' humorous expression, black and white observers alike have been reluctant to give satire its due as a powerful took against intolerance, bigotry and ignorance. Satire may not solve the world's problems, but it lets us know they exist, and that we're responsible for resolving them.

What is your favorite place you have travelled to and why?

That would have to be New York City. It's such an amazingly rich and complex center of culture and the arts. It's also the home of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, which is located in Harlem. Many of the authors I've studied lived, worked, and wrote in New York. I always find the city enriching and surprising.

What was your favorite book in high school or college?

When I was a junior in college, I read for the first time two books that changed the course of my life: Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift and The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I'd long enjoyed satire, but Swift's narrative offered the most devastating view of humanity I'd read until that point. Malcolm X lived an extraordinary life, but so many of his experiences were startlingly common. Like so many other young people, I found myself identifying with him on some levels and wrestling with the many challenges he posed to the way the average person thinks about American and world history. Together, Malcolm X and Swift helped me to become a more critical thinker.

Do you hope to do another book in the future? Any themes you'd like to explore?

I am currently working on "Spoofing the Modern: Satire in the Harlem Renaissance." I argue that satire was at the heart of the Harlem Renaissance movement. The most significant writers of the time employed satirical modes and called upon others to do the same. In fact, writers and intellectuals who held their peers respect—W.E.B. Du Bois, James Weldon Johnson, Wallace Thurman, Langston Hughes, Zora Neal Hurston, George S. Schuyler, and Rudolph Fisher—considered satire critical to the growth of African American culture. My book traces their perspectives and analyzes its effects upon subsequent literature.

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