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Recent Publication Information for Sara  Blair


Harlem Crossroads: Black Writers and the Photograph in the Twentieth Century


Sara Blair
Faculty Info


The Harlem riot of 1935 not only signaled the end of the Harlem Renaissance; it made black America's cultural capital an icon for the challenges of American modernity. Luring photographers interested in socially conscious, journalistic, and aesthetic representation, post-Renaissance Harlem helped give rise to America's full-blown image culture and its definitive genre, documentary. The images made there in turn became critical to the work of black writers seeking to reinvent literary forms. "Harlem Crossroads" is the first book to examine their deep, sustained engagements with photographic practices.

Arguing for Harlem as a crossroads between writers and the image, Sara Blair explores its power for canonical writers, whose work was profoundly responsive to the changing meanings and uses of photographs. She examines literary engagements with photography from the 1930s to the 1970s and beyond, among them the collaboration of Langston Hughes and Roy DeCarava, Richard Wright's uses of Farm Security Administration archives, James Baldwin's work with Richard Avedon, and Lorraine Hansberry's responses to civil rights images. Drawing on extensive archival work and featuring images never before published, Blair opens strikingly new views of the work of major literary figures, including Ralph Ellison's photography and its role in shaping his landmark novel "Invisible Man," and Wright's uses of camera work to position himself as a modernist and postwar writer. "Harlem Crossroads" opens new possibilities for understanding the entangled histories of literature and the photograph, as it argues for the centrality of black writers to cultural experimentation throughout the twentieth century.

All recent publications by Sara  Blair

  • Trauma and Documentary Photography of the FSA
  • Harlem Crossroads: Black Writers and the Photograph in the Twentieth Century

All publications by Sara  Blair

Trauma and Documentary Photography of the FSA , co-authored with Eric Rosenberg (University of California Press, 2012); Harlem Crossroads: Black Writers and the Photograph in the Twentieth Century (Princeton University Press, 2007); Jewish in America, co-edited with Jonathan Freedman (University of Michigan Press, 2004); Henry James and the Writing of Race and Nation (Cambridge University Press, 1996; paperback 2009).

Selected essays:

"Night-Writing New York," in Detroit After Dark: Photographs from the Collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts, ed. Nancy Barr (DIA/Yale University Press, 2016), 21-33; “On Location: Hitchcock’s America and the Place of Illusion.”  In The Cambridge Companion to Alfred Hitchcock, ed. Jonathan Freedman. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015; “Nation Time: Richard Wright, Black Power, and Photographic Modernism,” The Oxford Handbook of Global Modernisms, ed. Mark Wollaeger. Oxford University Press, 2012; “After the Fact: El libro negro, Traumatic Identities, and the War on Fascism.” Journal of Jewish Identities 5:1 (Winter 2012), 111-25; “Henry James, Race and Empire,” A Historical Guide to Henry James, ed. Eric Haralson and John Carlos Rowe.  Oxford University Press, 2012; “Visions of the Tenement: Photography and Modernity on the Lower East Side,” Images: A Journal of Jewish Art 4:1 (Winter 2011), 57-81; "The Politics of Modernism," The Cambridge Companion to Modernism, ed. Michael Levenson. Pp. 157-73.  Cambridge University Press, 2011; “The Photograph's Last Word: Visual Culture Studies Now,” American Literary History 22:3 (Fall 2010);  “About Time: Photographs and the Reading of History.” PMLA, Theories and Methodologies Forum 125:1 (January 2010); “The Photograph as History,” ELN 44:2 (Fall 2006); “Whose Modernism Is It? Abraham Cahan, Fictions of Yiddish, and the Contest of Modernity,” Modern Fiction Studies, special issue , “Modernism’s Jews/Jewish Modernisms 51:2 (Summer 2005), 258-84; “Ralph Ellison, Photographer,” Raritan 24:4 (Spring 2005), 21-44; “Ellison, Photography, and the Origins of Invisibility.” The Cambridge Companion to Ralph Ellison, ed. Ross Posnock (NY: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 56-81; “Local Modernity, Global Modernism: Bloomsbury and the Places of the Literary,” ELH 71:3 (Fall 2004), 813-38; “Jewish America through the Lens: On Fictions of Photography,” reprinted in Jewish in America (University of Michigan Press, 2004), 113-34; “Bringing Modernism Home: Gertrude Stein, 27 Rue de Fleurus, and Geographies of the Avant-Garde.” American Literary History 12:3 (Fall 2000);  "Cultural Geography and the Place of Literary Studies." American Literary History 10:3 (Fall 1998), 544-67.

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