Novel Frames: Literature As Guide to Race, Sex, and History by Joseph R. Urgo

By Joseph R. Urgo

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Armstrong's words ("I know now that few really listen to this music," realizes IM) concern the anguish of having others assume a definitional limit to one's intellectual and emotional horizons because of the color of one's skinaccording to what that color traditionally signifies. How can a nation that has amalgamated various distinct cultures continue to insist, in its institutions and in its social forms, that any particular individual "belongs," according to the parlance, to an exclusive racial grouping?

He describes this "game" as one "that puts truths into question; that is, it is a game that does not so much expand or apply truths as interrogate them" (53). This is probably the most valuable quality of self-realization offered the reader by the fictional. Fiction interrogates the real. Since most interrogation these days is done by the defenders of a reality assumed to be immune to questioning, and since some teachers have taken to drawing up lists of things that everyone should know (not question: know), it is particularly timely that we cultivate Costa Lima's notion of reading.

Unless we acknowledge our diversity, we allow the silences of the received tradition to become our own. Unless we sustain some ideal of a common culture, we reduce culture to personal experience and sacrifice the very concept of American. (28-29) The "common culture" to which Fox-Genovese advocates a sort of allegiance is not an easy thing to find. The word "common" may in fact send the seeker off in the wrong direction. The culture is multiple and contradictory, not singular and consistentand the self at home in this culture is one that can tolerate multiplicity and contradiction.

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