During its formative years—its short happy life in the latter decades of the twentieth century—black feminist criticism focused almost exclusively on literature by and about black women, a body of work it claimed as its own “precious” private property. This essay uses a foreign body—Ernest Hemingway's most written-about story, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”—to attempt to expand the theoretical boundaries of black feminist literary study in the twenty-first century. Because of its gender politics, its showcasing of heroic white manhood and its manhandling of white women, “The Short Happy Life” has been a popular target of mainstream feminist critique. Far less attention has been paid to the story's racial dynamics, despite its African setting and the crucial role that both race and class, that is, “whiteness” and white privilege, play in advancing the narrative. Racializing “whiteness,” this essay asks whether a male-authored work, which contains no black characters of consequence, is nevertheless fair game for a black feminist reading. What happens to the text of the white male “other” when it is read through the lens of black feminist theory?
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Ann duCille; The Short Happy Life of Black Feminist Theory. differences 1 May 2010; 21 (1): 32–47. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-2009-015
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