The thirty-second episode of Professor Ato Quayson’s vlog Critic.Reading.Writing is up!

In this episode, the professor analyzes connections between the noir fiction genre, race, and social critique in Walter Mosley’s Devil in the Blue Dress (1990).

Quayson begins his lecture with a historical examination of racial and ethnic tensions that were simmering in post-World War II Los Angeles where the novel takes place, and the implications of those tensions for a black male detective like Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins attempting to move through different urban spaces. The character of Easy is forced to provide several forms of credentials to social gatekeepers, whereas a character like Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is cloaked in a protective white masculinity that allows him to traverse most spaces unquestioned.

Quayson argues that while Sherlock Holmes may rely on this freedom of movement in addition to his deductive methods, Easy is armed with both the curse and blessing of double consciousness as a black man which gives him a form of insight that Holmes may never possess. He explains,

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It is also possible for double consciousness in a highly racialized and racist society to generate a mode of interpretive alertness and superlative hyper awareness for the black person, such that the condition can also be turned into a form of liberatory consciousness.

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Critic.Reading.Writing with Ato Quayson is the show for booklovers hungry for meaningful conversations about books.

New episodes of Critic.Reading.Writing with Ato Quayson will be posted every Saturday.

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