GRE Reading Comprehension: JiJing 352-GRE阅读机经352篇 - _34U254EK70Y_16QK

In 1948, James Baldwin, like many African American writers before him, left the United States to live and write in Paris. Around this time, Baldwin had been reading the work of the earlier White American novelist Henry James, who had also left his homeland to write from Europe. Baldwin may have been attracted to James's thematic focus on "the eternal outsider" as an alternative to the pretest tradition of fiction, with its explicit social and political didacticism – a tradition that Baldwin found to be confining. Baldwin aspired to achieve in his fiction the kind of universalism that mainstream critics and readers did not usually associate with the work of Black writers, he was determined, he said, to prevent himself from becoming "merely a Negro writer." While Baldwin's first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), is set in the African American community of Harlem and features characters closely modeled on Baldwin's own family, his second novel, Giovanni's Room (1956), moved far beyond this social setting: its narrator is a White American living in Paris, and all the other characters are White as well. Indeed, critic Leslie Fiedler found it odd that not a single African American appeared in the Paris of the novel, despite their well-known presence in that city. Though Baldwin's use of an all-White cast seemed brave when the novel was first published, there were notable precedents. For African American writers at the turn of the twentieth century, such as Charles Chesnutt and Paul Laurence Dunbar, the so-called raceless novel featuring White characters and plots devoid of racial and social themes was a commercial venture, usually a love story. Late, in the 1930s and 1940s, William Attaway, Chester Himes, and Willard Motley, influenced by the naturalist movement, which had brought the ethnic working class into American literature, all wrote novels about White characters struggling with social and economic obstacles. However, these novels' explicit acknowledgment of their characters' social and ethnic backgrounds meant that they were not considered "raceless" in the old-fashioned sense. The "raceless" novel returned with Richard Wright's Savage Holiday (1954). Wright's portrait of a White New York insurance executive suffering a breakdown was greeted in some quarters with the argument that in dealing exclusively with White characters, Wright had denied himself the subject matter that had given his other work its ferocious animation. But either the novel with White ethnic main characters or the "raceless" novel appears, at least as an experiment, in the careers of the best-known expatriate African American writers. In the 1950s, African American writers had few chances to demonstrate that they had any knowledge of life that did not have something to do with Black. Those who wrote about White characters were, in effect, questioning the definitions of the Black writer, if not of African American literature itself.