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Bad Men

Creative Touchstones of Black Writers
Howard Rambsy II

BUY Cloth · 238 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813944128 · $59.50 · Apr 2020
BUY Paper · 238 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813944135 · $29.50 · Apr 2020
BUY Ebook · 238 pp. · ISBN 9780813944142 · $29.50 · Apr 2020

How have African American writers drawn on "bad" black men and black boys as creative touchstones for their evocative and vibrant art? This is the question posed by Howard Rambsy’s new book, which explores bad men as a central, recurring, and understudied figure in African American literature and music. By focusing on how various iterations of the bad black man figure serve as creative muse and inspiration for literary production, Rambsy puts a wide variety of contemporary African American literary and cultural works in conversation with creativity research for the first time.

Employing concepts such as playfulness, productivity, divergent thinking, and problem finding, Rambsy examines the works of a wide range of writers—including Elizabeth Alexander, Amiri Baraka, Paul Beatty, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Tyehimba Jess, Trymaine Lee, Adrian Matejka, Aaron McGruder, Evie Shockley, and Kevin Young—who have drawn on notions of bad black men and boys to create innovative and challenging works in a variety of genres. Through groundbreaking readings, Rambsy demonstrates the fruitfulness of viewing black literary art through the lens of creativity research.


In this highly original study, Howard Rambsy offers cogent and thoughtful analyses of black writing and puts a wide variety of contemporary African American literary and cultural works in conversation with creative theory.

Candice Jenkins, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, author of Black Bourgeois: Class and Sex in the Flesh

The idea of the Bad Man or the Bad Black has long been tethered to the lives and fictions of Black masculinity in the United States. As the Bad Men kept so many up at night, it was also a source of allure and desire, for even Black men and boys who sought to unpack its power. No one understands this quandary better than Howard Rambsy, who takes Black men at their words in Bad Men, revealing the richness of language and imagination that so many miss in their fantasies of the Bad Black Man.

Mark Anthony Neal, Duke University, author Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities

About the Author(s): 

Howard Rambsy II is Professor of English at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and author of The Black Arts Enterprise and the Production of African American Poetry.

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