An Enchanting Darkness: The American Vision of Africa in the Twentieth Century

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Michigan State University Press, 1993 - 352 pages
An Enchanting Darkness: the American Vision of Africa in the Twentieth Century is more than just another look at racism, cultural bias, and the images that under-gird widely held misconceptions about an entire continent. Going beyond convention, this important new work analyzes the way truisms and stereotypes have perpetuated negative and naive images of Africa and its people. Dennis Hickey and Ken Wylie probe the reasons why such unfortunate views have persisted, even among groups of supposedly well-educated Americans. They examine the concept of the "Noble Savage" and trace its evolution within the media of our popular culture and within the literature produced by scholars. American perceptions of Africa are shown to have been influenced by French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau's ideas, research undertaken by anthropologists Franz Boaz and Melville Herskovits, and by nine decades of pervasive imagery presented by twentieth-century writers like Saul Bellow, Laura Bohannan, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Alex Haley, Ernest Hemingway, Paul Theroux, Maria Thomas, John Updike, and Alice Walker. Finally, An Enchanting Darkness examines the symbolic conventions presented to the American public that also have been manipulated to create counter-myths that are as hollow and destructive as the older shibboleth of Africa as a "dark continent".

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