ABSTRACT

This essay develops a reception history of the Communist Party of the USA’s (CPUSA) responses to Richard Wright’s Native Son. Drawing on what Fiona Paton calls “cultural stylistics,” I argue that the voices residing in Native Son itself participated in the broader interpretive politics surrounding the novel. Specifically, Wright’s primary character, Bigger Thomas, functioned as a disruptive performance of blackness that revealed the limitations of communist orthodoxy for bringing expression to black subjectivity. I conclude by reflecting on the ways cultural stylistics poses salient ethical challenges to all of us who engage in the labor of critique.

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