2021 dissertation: Race Youth in Twentieth-Century American Literature and Culture, by Claire E Lenviel, University of Kentucky

Randolph Hollingsworth (she/her) Announcement
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Kentucky, United States
Subject Fields
African American History / Studies, Black History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Human Rights, Journalism and Media Studies

"Race Youth in Twentieth-Century American Literature and Culture"
by Claire E. Lenviel 
PhD in English, University of Kentucky, 2021

"Race Youth in Twentieth-Century American Literature and Culture" argues for the centrality of black youth, both real and literary, to the trajectories of African American
literature and its repudiation of white supremacy. Drawing on research into the rise of the
adolescent and teenager as distinct social categories, I argue that age-based subjectivity
should inform how we read race-based subjectivity. My first chapter explores how early
twentieth-century black periodicals push back against white supremacist theories of human
development in an explicit appeal to what I call “race youth,” the children and adolescents
who would take up the mantle of racial uplift. My second chapter examines how, amidst
the Great Depression, protest writing reframed youth through a discourse of economic
vulnerability to confront the inequity of government accountability in the Roosevelt era. I
then consider the influence of the teenage rebel figure on post-1945 African American
literature and argue that Cold War black authors unveil the deeply entrenched sexual and
racial discourses that regulate and discipline rebellion during the turbulent era of
desegregation. The final chapter analyzes twenty-first century young adult protest fiction
through the lens of the previous century’s development of black adolescent subjectivity. 

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