Metaphysical Hunger, the Radical Imagination and Richard Wright’s Emancipatory Project
Webb, Nadejda Isha
This thesis argues that Wright’s 1945 autobiography Black Boy (American Hunger) diagnoses metaphysical hunger within the United States of America, revealing the radical imagination as a means to think about absence as power. Black Boy (American Hunger) details the coming of age of Richard Wright as he moves from the Jim Crow South to the North in search of the inexpressibly human. His journey, analyzed through Isabell Lorey’s theory of precarity, and Lauren Berlant’s theory of cruel optimism, becomes a microscope with which to see various absences inherent within the social structures of American society. This thesis analyzes the metaphysical hunger resulting from absence and dehumanization, and the radical imagination metaphysical hunger yields. Ultimately, by recognizing the nationalist implications of Black lives, Wright calls for the development of an archive, which will intervene in the reproduction of violence in Black lives and generate a new legacy for the nation.