Philadelphia Fire, or the Shape of a City

Jean-Pierre Richard

We translators, if we so choose, may have a patron saint Jerome who was the first to translate the Bible from the Hebrew into Latin. But we may also have a non-Christian patron king, the king of Egypt who probably asked for the Torah to be translated into Greek. 1 His name was Ptolemy II "Philadelph," so named because he married his sister. 2 His father was the founder of the Alexandria Mouseion (Museum) 3 and Library. Philadelph generally improved on his father's work. Many Philadelphias were then founded in Egypt and Asia, though not yet in America. Of course, some time later, William Penn put that right. And should not the French translator of Philadelphia Fire be forgiven if he believes Philadephia, Pennsylvania, was founded as a late homage to Philadelph?

With the Egyptian king in mind we shall examine the episode in Philadelphia Fire (44-45) where the protagonist Cudjoe is perched at the top of the steps leading up to the entrance of the Art Museum. Frequent mention will also be made of two other books by John Edgar Wideman: Reuben (1987) and Fever (1989). Indeed those three volumes of fiction, published in quick succession in three short years at the end of the 1980s, could be read as a Philadelphia Trilogy, a companion to the better known Homewood Trilogy which dates from the beginning of the same decade.

Although Philadelphia recognizably serves as a backdrop to the action in Wideman's third published novel The Lynchers (1973), the name of the city appears first in Brothers and Keepers (1984). In Reuben all black men are said "to have a Philadelphia. . . . A brother trapped there forever" (93). Then the short story "Fever"--in size, almost a novella--centers on the 1793 plague outburst in Philadelphia, a theme taken up again in Wideman's latest book, his 1996 novel The Cattle Killing. So over the last ten years Philadelphia has come to dominate his work, much as Homewood prevailed in the early 1980s. And looking into the shape of Wideman's Philadelphia might help shed some light upon his fiction over the past decade.

As applied to Philadelphia, the word "shape" occurs twice within the couple of pages in Philadelphia Fire we have chosen to consider here. The episode comes halfway through Part One of the three-part novel. From the top of the Museum steps, the protagonist Cudjoe has a panoramic view of the city:

From this vantage-point in the museum's deep shadow in the greater darkness of night it seems an iron will has imposed itself on the shape of the city. (44, emphasis mine) [End Page 603]

He [Cudjoe] can tell thought had gone into the design. And a person must have stood here, on this hill, imagining this perspective. Dreaming the vast emptiness into the shape of a city. (45, emphasis mine)

Wideman's reader may take "a person . . . imagining this perspective" to be William Penn--a guess which appears to be borne out by the next paragraph, when Cudjoe is suddenly reminded of the Founding Fathers, "dead now. Buried in their wigs, waistcoats, swallowtail coats, silk hose clinging to their plump calves. A foolish old man flying a kite in a storm" (45). That last sentence of course refers to Benjamin Franklin rather than to William Penn, as Franklin is well-known for his experiments with a kite equipped with a metal point that led him to discover atmospheric electricity, invent the lightning rod and map the paths of storms over the American continent. But more of that "foolish old man" later. We shall stay first with William Penn, see what shape his Philadelphia was meant to be and why nothing is left of it after Wideman's Philadelphia Trilogy.


In William Penn's Instructions used as an epigraph to the novel, his vast ambitions come out forcefully:

Let every house be placed, if the Person pleases, in the middle of his platt . . . so there may be ground on each side, for Gardens or Orchards or fields, that it may be a greene Country Towne, which will never be burnt, and always be wholsome.

Note the "never be burnt" and the "always be wholsome." His is not a man-made perishable city. Rather it sounds like the creation of a god-like figure, 4 whose "greene Country Towne"--i.e. a latter-day Paradise--is meant to last "for ever and ever."

And yet theological considerations should not mask more mundane concerns in William Penn's blueprint for a new city. He was thirteen when William Harvey died. This English physician had discovered the circulation of the blood (Harvey). And from then on the concept of easy flow of circulation through broad avenues and large squares was applied to city-planning (Sennet). Much is made of this ambivalent "circulation"--of men in an urban setting, of blood in the body--in "Fever," a story in which the physiological foundation of the city is at variance with its ethical reality.

In Wideman's story, selfishness is equated with the clogging of arteries in the human but not humane enough heart. The blood clots of self-interest stop the necessary "traffic" between men and isolate individuals from the community. Paradoxically, with its rigid plan, its "geometrical grid of streets, perpendicular, true angled and straight edged" (Fever 248), Philadelphia is a reflection of the Quakers' mind as portrayed in "Fever," "the mirror of their rectitude" (248), the urban image of their unkindness. Thus a city meant to reflect in its lay-out one of the most basic but [End Page 604] vital principles of human life--blood circulation--proves to be the exact opposite, a heartless structure. The Quaker promise has been betrayed and Allen, the main narrator in "Fever," is entitled to brand the hearts of the founders "the foulness upon which this city is erected" (249). In Wideman's superb story, Philadelphia does not typify "circulation" between men, but the lack of it, as the city splits in two unconnected parts: the rigid grid of the town center and the chaotic maze of the periphery where the latest immigrants and the vast majority of the Black inhabitants barely survive, "cocooned like worms" (248) in holes dug out of the river banks. So, a great divide runs across Philadelphia. What was meant to be the new Rome of Christian Love, the new Eternal City, "this cradle and capital of a New World" (246-47), has become a symbol for separation between human beings, for a kind of 18th-century apartheid. By focusing on the contrast between city center and periphery, Allen's narrative makes it quite clear what the "fever" actually is in Wideman's divided city: racism, "the invisible reef between this broken place and the foursquare town" (248). The City of Brotherly Love is a broken heart.

Philadelphia relates to the heart in yet another way. Historically, it functioned as a heart for America. Witness the 1777 Robert Morris 5 quotation used by Wideman as an epigraph to "Fever":

Consider Philadelphia from its centrical situation, the extent of its commerce, the number of its artificers, manufacturers and other circumstances, to be to the United States, what the heart is to the human body in circulating the blood.

Robert Morris was the "Financier of the American Revolution." Among the "other circumstances" he hints at, we may safely include the convening of the First Continental Congress in 1774, of which he was a member, and the Declaration of Independence, to which he was also a signatory. So in Wideman's work in the late 1980s, Philadelphia is not just one in many American cities; it stands as the most American one, the heart of American history, the heart of America.

By 1990 in Wideman's fiction, William Penn's Philadelphia could be added to the fallen cities listed by T. S. Eliot in The Waste Land: "Falling towers / Jerusalem Athens Alexandria / Vienna London" (Eliot l.373-75). No plague and no fire was William Penn's formula for his Eternal City. Wideman's answer to the first claim is a collection of twelve stories which owes its title to the last one, "Fever." It is drawn from the historical records of a great epidemic that raged in Philadelphia in the summer of 1793. "Wholsome" Philadelphia has caught the fever and is dying. Philadelphia Fire picks up the work of destruction from where "Fever" left off the year before. The end of the story "Fever" conflates two Philadelphian disasters: the great fever of 1793 and the massacre of eleven people, including five children, in West Philadelphia, on May 13, 1985, when a bomb was dropped from a state police helicopter on a house occupied by people said to be members of an organization called MOVE, the one Mumia Abu-Jamal allegedly belongs to. The Mayor's speech at the end of "Fever" hailing the end of the epidemic is echoed by the mayor's words in Philadelphia Fire, that also proclaim the coming of a new day after the police bombing. [End Page 605]

William Penn's ideal city was "never [to] be burnt." Philadelphia Fire is the answer to that other claim. In Part Three of the novel, the city is burning, just like Troy in Homer and Virgil:

Philadelphia's on fire. (157)
Best to let it burn. All of it burn. (159)

Not only is Philadelphia burning; with present-day "private developers" (78) the city feeds on fire, it lives on it, it expands through fire, as they choose systematic arson to clear the old slums and make room for a new Philadelphia, which could be renamed New Athens 6 by Mayor Goode, acting as a new William Penn. William Penn's planned Garden of Eden, his "greene Country Towne," turns into hell, an "inferno." Philadelphia is no longer that one city on earth where fire is impossible. The fire is now consubstantial with the city and that is one way of hearing the title Philadelphia Fire: the last word "fire" comes out of the name of the city as by internal friction of the fricatives. Of course, just as essential is the call to arms lodged in the same title, which sounds then as Philadelphia Fire! Fire! Fire! Ruins and ashes are what is left of the city's historical function as the heart of America as a Land of Freedom: "These ruins. This Black Camelot and its cracked Liberty Bell burn" (159).

Indeed, in Reuben's lingo, Philadelphia both means brotherly love and a brother in prison. The Cattle Killing equivocates on the hidden presence of "love" in the Greek name of the city: "Philadelphia. Love is buried in its name, you know" (49). "Brother" has been a constant key word in Wideman's fiction over the years: in his first published novel A Glance Away (1967), one of the characters, an albino, is called Brother. Another albino goes by the same nickname (only the surname has changed from Small to Tate) in Sent for You Yesterday (1983). And the word has crept twice into a title: in Brothers and Keepers (1984) and again six years later with Philadelphia Fire through Greek. This time "brother" is not a character in the story; it/he has taken the shape of a city. Brother-wise, Philadelphia Fire also connects with "The Beginning of Homewood," the last story in Damballah: John, the narrator, directly addresses his brother who is in prison in America and tells him how he once started writing a letter to him: "A letter I began writing on a Greek island two years ago, but never finished" (193). John's posture then matches exactly Cudjoe's as described, eight years later, at the beginning of Philadelphia Fire: in both episodes the narrator is sitting in a cafe, on his last morning on a Greek island. He had been hoping for blue skies and sunshine, but the sky is gray. Indeed in 1990, the weather is definitely stormy. Philadelphia Fire opens with a tempest.


And now we can go back to our "foolish old man flying a kite in a storm." Benjamin Franklin may help us on the second leg of our tour of Wideman's Philadelphia insofar as he represents the time element, as opposed to William Penn's timeless dream of an [End Page 606] Eternal City, which is what Cudjoe believes he can see spread out in front of him from the Museum steps: "This is how the city was meant to be viewed. Scale and pattern fixed forever. . . A miraculous design" (44-45). But this is the shape of the city before the heart starts pumping, i.e. before time is included in the picture.

We have just seen what is left of William Penn's Philadelphia by 1990 in Wideman's fiction, what havoc, fever, and fire have played with the original concept. It has been destroyed by plague, burnt down to ashes. Cudjoe is now aware of the fallacy attached to Penn's Eternal City: "The city could fool you easy. . . . Love you. Love you not. Who's zooming who? Is someone in charge?" (44). God as Eternal Founding Father is no longer here. So, what happens to Philadelphia--to the shape of any city, for that matter?

Philadelphia Fire has a main plot and a number of subplots, including Cudjoe's search for the lost little boy Simba-Muntu. But the central event in the novel is the attempt by schoolteacher Cudjoe, with his pupils from the ghettos, to stage Shakespeare's The Tempest in one of Philadelphia's public parks. Unfortunately a deluge drenches the city on the day, and the plan is washed out. Earlier in the novel, we are given this clue: "Tempestas also means time" (107). And later on, the text is self-explanatory again:

This narrative is a sport of time, what it's about is stopping time, catching time. See how the play [The Tempest] works like an engine, a heart in the story's chest, churning, pumping, tying something to something else, that sign by which we know time's conspiring, expiring. (133)

So that is what that "foolish old man" was doing flying his kite in a storm: in terms of physics he was mapping the paths of the storms, or tempests, over the American continent; metaphysically he was trying to catch time. The heart-shape of Philadelphia cannot be divorced from time. But how can you catch time? The answer to that question, if there is any, may well lie not in front of Cudjoe, perched at the top of the museum steps, but behind him in the Art Museum itself. And it may be spelt out not in Philadelphia Fire, but in Reuben.

A sizeable part of Reuben deals with Eadweard Muybridge, considered to be the first man to have photographed movement in California in 1878, when he did a series of twelve shots of a galloping horse and thus revealed to the world that at one point in the race all four hooves were off the ground (Mozley). Muybridge even appears as a character in Reuben, albeit a ghostly one, when he engages in a superb dialogue with Reuben in a piece strongly reminiscent of the Entretien entre d'Alembert et Diderot. 7 The topic is photography, Egypt, time, and eternity. In 1883 the University of Pennsylvania invited Muybridge to do research there, and they published in 1887 Animal Locomotion (Muybridge), a selection of 781 frames by Muybridge, including many photographs of human models in the nude. In Reuben, the protagonist mentions "a strip of twelve photos" (15) of Muybridge himself climbing stairs. Photographers in Europe were working along similar lines at the time, all bent on catching high-speed movement on their plates. In Paris, such people as Etienne-Jules Marey and his friends [End Page 607] Albert Londe and Paul Richer had met Muybridge. Indeed there are many graphic or photographic renderings of human figures descending or ascending stairs in the 1880s. 8 And yet, Marcel Duchamp's oil painting Nude Descending a Staircase caused a sensation when shown in 1912. The multicolored figure in the picture is fragmented into many vertical and almost parallel segments, so as to create an impression of movement. The fragments are linked together by a few horizontal lines of white dots, at hip level; the viewer can then "connect the dots" and add movement to the picture, bring it to life. Exactly what the voice of Philadelphia invites Cudjoe to do (and this is the only time in the novel when the city is given a voice):

I belong to you, the city says. This is what I was meant to be. You can grasp the pattern. Make sense of me. Connect the dots. I was constructed for you. Like a field of stars I need you to bring me to life. My names, my gods poised on the tip of your tongue. All you have to do is speak and you reveal me, complete me. (44)

Later Duchamp acknowledged a possible debt to Marey (Frizot 253-54). Certainly Paul Richer's stickmen in dots, drawn from Marey and Londe's photographs, show a striking resemblance to Duchamp's famous Nude. As it happens, thanks to Walter C. Arensberg (Duchamp's main American patron who has brought together Duchamp's life work in the Philadelphia Museum), 9 Duchamp's Nude is just behind Cudjoe as Wideman's protagonist reflects on the shape of the city.

Muybridge's technique as a photographer, Reuben's craft as a lawyer, 10 and Wideman's art as a writer are truly similar. Incidentally, Reuben read law in Philadelphia. Just as Muybridge can only catch movement by dividing it into small units, so does Reuben with action: he knows how to turn it into legal procedure, stall the original dynamics and, step by step, change it all into another logic leading to different consequences for his client. And so does Wideman who can break up the chaotic flux of memory into two, three, five, ten, or twelve parts, so as to keep control of the process by inventing a different kind of time: textual time, which the writer can fully control. That is certainly the case in Wideman's first three novels, cut up into three roughly equal parts each.

In Philadelphia Fire the three parts are distinctly unequal in size, and very different, indeed, in style. The first one makes up about half the book and appears less experimental. But the second part comes as a shock to the reader: it does away with any justifying thread. There is no continuous narrative. Fragmentation reigns supreme through dozens of separate items juxtaposed in what looks like haphazard or chaotic fashion. They do compose thematic series though: but these only appear if the reader connects the dots, brings life to this ragged rhapsody, puts time and movement back into the picture. The fragments in Part II are indeed stop-time still-frames which need a reader's eye for synthesis. Writer Wideman may proceed here exactly as photographer Muybridge did when he tried to catch time--the paradox of the photographer being that to catch time he has to stop time, to decompose, atomize or "anatomize motion" (Reuben 63): "Muybridge has stopped time for his subjects" (22). Observe that in Part II of Philadelphia Fire Cudjoe also tells how he has tried to stage [End Page 608] The Tempest and failed. The author and his character are both trying to capture time. We are also told in Part II how the police and the City are bent on destroying what members are left of the MOVE organization. A fragment in Part II is a letter from Ramona Africa, an imprisoned member of MOVE:

Dear Mr. Wideman. On the Move!

I am presently in jail in upstate Pennsylvania along with ten of my brothers and sisters who was framed for the killing of a Phila. cop in August of 1978. We are serving 30-100-yr. sentences. (Philadelphia Fire 124-25)

Fortunately, you cannot catch movement. In Reuben, Muybridge admits: "Motion escaped my net. . . . My pictures never caught it" (63). The MOVE organization is still "On the Move!" as the letter will have it, and as shown by the furor and mobilization around Mumia Abu-Jamal's death sentence. 11 As for Cudjoe, he failed in his attempt to stage The Tempest.

Does writer Wideman fare better? Can he catch time? He probably tried earlier in his literary career through very strict control of textual time in his first three novels; then, in the Homewood Trilogy, by having a number of characters (John, Bess, Doot) actively recapturing part of their suppressed world under the auspices of such gods as Damballah. The use of such triads, triptychs or trilogies as The Homewood Trilogy (1985), The Stories of John Edgar Wideman (1992) and Identities (1994) may also be perceived as a determined attempt at mastering time through the author's control over republication of earlier works in a new format. Clearly he is still keen on authorial manipulation of time as fiction time, now extended to clusters of books rather than limited to one title as was the case at the start of his career. But with Philadelphia Fire he has added another tool to his box, as the reader is now called upon to connect the dots, to complete the picture and bring it to life. As long as the reader can be relied upon to provide continuity, the author feels free to carry discontinuity ever further, to explore movement through atomization, to try and catch time by ever-increasing decomposition. The process affects all aspects of literary creation, including the concept--or rather sense--of identity, as in Philadelphia Fire, where different personas share the fictional scene: "Cudjoe," "J.B.," "I," "not I."

For textual organization, the same process is responsible for one of the most attractive and effective features of Philadelphia Fire: its division in three unequal parts, each with its specific rhythm, all three juxtaposed in a dynamic pattern based on "multiple meter," "staggered accents," and "consciously clashed elements," to borrow from Robert Farris Thompson's study of "rhythmized textiles" in Flash of the Spirit (207-22). With its three widely differing parts, Philadelphia Fire is an "emphatic multistrip composition" that requires to be scanned metrically as textual syncopation. The de-centering of "the central event" helps generate added energy and proves a powerful incentive to the reader's imagination. The "fabulator" is most emphatic about it: [End Page 609]

This is the central event I assure you. I repeat. Whatever my assurance is worth. Being the fabulator. This is the central event, this production of The Tempest staged by Cudjoe in the late late 1960s, outdoors, in a park in West Philly . . . . The Tempest sits dead center . . . it is the bounty and hub of all else written about the fire, though it comes here . . . nearer the end than the beginning. (132)

"Multistrip phrasing" in Mande and other African-related textiles is interpreted by Thompson as a deliberate "venture into disordered regions" (Thompson 211, 222); and people who come back from chaos do so "with a power not available to those who have stayed in the control of . . . society" (Douglas 95), as they have reached back to the prime chaotic energy that preceded creation and shapes of any form.


Cudjoe's short meditation on the shape of Philadelphia as viewed from the top of the Art Museum steps opens up many avenues to readers and critics. We can only suggest here a couple of possible areas of interest as regards "the shape of the city" or "the shape of the novel" in Wideman.

First, the problematic union of movement and stillness. In Reuben's third segment, titled "Cudjoe," Reuben pores over a series of twelve frames by Muybridge entitled Woman Kneeling for Jar: "Locked inside them, like the woman's form transposed into the jar's clay, was that elusive secret of motion the photographer sought. / Extraction was the problem. Releasing the genie from the jar" (47). The word "jar" pops up again at the beginning of Philadelphia Fire, when Cudjoe plays with a souvenir, a crystal ball with a winterscape in it: "When you turn it upside down, a thousand weightless flakes of something hover in the magic jar" (5). Those two American urns could be linked to another famous one, T. S. Eliot's "Chinese jar" in Four Quartets, when the poet looks for "the form, the pattern," for that which enables words to reach "the still point of the turning world," where "the dance is / But neither arrest nor movement" (Eliot "Burnt Norton," II, l.62-64), "The stillness, as a Chinese jar still / Moves perpetually in its stillness" (IV, l.140-43). When discussing the shape of a city such as Philadelphia in Wideman's fiction, one feels the need for further investigation of what the more general notion of "shape" or "form" may mean to him. As early as 1970, his second novel Hurry Home contained some powerful statements on the subject, especially when building the contrast between two barbershops, Process Pete's and Constance Beauty's (345-56), an arresting metaphor for supposedly antagonistic art theories, laced with considerations about Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn" (351).

Second, more attention should be paid to the treatment of narrative as fragmented raw material and serialization of items, which relates to a view of unity as "anti-logos" (Deleuze 112-85), or open-ended multiplicity, essentially marked by multiple rhythms--and here we may want to compare with other art forms, such as Romare Bearden's "rhythmically-oriented" collages (Powell 240), or Mande-related textiles. [End Page 610] At the beginning of Philadelphia Fire, Cudjoe recalls his meeting with a Greek woman: "She will teach him the Greek for her body parts. Hair is . . . eyes are . . . nose is . . . the Greek words escaping him even as he hears them. . . . No language she speaks is his. . . . Words are empty sounds" (6). Here the protagonist is divorced from her language, her "logos." The beautiful Greek pre-existent unity falls apart: the Greek woman's body falls apart. She is both anatomized and atomized. There is no Logos anymore. Wideman may do away with William Penn's Philadelphia and its pretensions to eternity; he may turn away from the Logos and any conceptual model based on fixed categories, as epitomized by "the paradigm of race" (Fatheralong xxiv). His favorite pharaoh would be Philadelph rather than the Aton castigated in Ishmael Reed's hieroglyphic and epidemic 1972 novel Mumbo Jumbo. 12 Basic to Wideman's fiction is his total rejection of the "atonist" mind based upon what he terms in his "Introduction" to W.E.B. DuBois' The Souls of Black Folk "either/or terminal distinctions: black/white, male/female, young/old, good/bad, rich/poor, spirit/flesh" (Wideman, "Introduction" xiii). His writing goes beyond such impoverishing alternatives and seeks for the hidden colors: "Black and white gone. What came next" (The Cattle Killing 142). "Possibility" is the master word here. For all that, in Wideman's work--so far--there is no "atomologos composed of quarkgrams," to quote a funny phrase (Richard 20). "Leg is . . . Arm is . . ." (Philadelphia Fire 7): there is someone to "connect the dots." Cudjoe can do it in Part I of Philadelphia Fire. And in Part II, the reader is implicitly called upon to cooperate, to complete the shape of the novel, so that it may become what Wideman has called a "funny version of call and response, my particular version of communal work being made" (Coleman 159-60). We are reminded here of Robert D. Pelton's words about the trickster figure: "His stories are a passage enabling structure to enfold chaos and become again communitas" (Pelton 227).

So to Cudjoe's double question "Who's zooming who? Is someone in charge?" we may safely answer: yes, with Wideman we are all in charge. And his readers would like to believe that they are his tricksters--not the creator, not makers, but shapers 13 --that his Philadelphia as a city of words needs them as readers, indeed, as brothers.

Jean-pierre Richard teaches literary translation to postgraduates at the University of Paris 7-Denis Diderot. He has just completed a doctoral dissertation on the figures of time in John Edgar Wideman's work. His published translations include plays by Shakespeare, Djuna Barnes's Ryder, six novels by Paul West, ten volumes of contemporary South African fiction (notably Njabulo Ndebele, Nadine Gordimer, Miriam Tlali, Ivan Vladislavic), a novel by Adam Shafi about Zanzibar (Kasari Ya Myinyi Fuad, translated from kiSwahili) and John Edgar Wideman's Philadelphia Fire and The Cattle Killing. He is currently working on a translation of Two Cities.


1. Whether or not initiated by the Ptolemy kings, translation work on the Torah started in Alexandria about 285 B.C. See Harl (107).

2. In ancient Greek, adelphos ("born from the same womb," "brother") occasionally meant "sister," as in Euripides's Electra (536). The more common word for "sister" was adelphè; philein: "to love."

3. From ancient Greek mousa: a Muse. Originally, a mouseion was a "temple of the 9 Muses."

4. Compare with "This job, like God's, of making a city had wearied J.B." (Philadelphia Fire 156).

5. Robert Morris (1734-1806), English-born American financier and statesman. In 1747 he moved from Lancashire to Philadelphia. He organized the finance for Washington's military supplies and in 1782 founded the Bank of North America.

6. Compare with The Lynchers: "Independence Hall, the Mint, had been cleaned and restored. . . . They want the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason" (110).

7. Written by Denis Diderot in 1769, published in 1830. See Diderot (873-85).

8. See Paul Richer's drawing, Homme descendant un escalier, from Albert Londe's successive photographs, in Richer. Richer's drawing is reproduced in Frizot (253).

9. See Cabanne (273-83) and McMullen (438). It may be worth noting here that Wideman contributed an essay to the Fall 1971 issue of the same journal; see Wideman, "Fear in the Streets" (611-22).

10. For an explicit parallel between law and Muybridge's photography, see Reuben (17).

11. See Wideman's "Introduction: Mumia Abu-Jamal, 1995." Mumia Abu-Jamal was born in Philadelphia on April 24, 1954. He was a radio reporter and was given the sack for joining the allegedly radical black organization MOVE. He became a taxi-driver and received the death sentence for the murder of a policeman in 1982.

12. About the "Jes Grew" epidemic that started in New Orleans: "It's nothing we can bring into focus or categorize; once we call it 1 thing it forms into something else" (Reed 4).

13. Pelton: "Legba is a creative agent, not the creator--a shaper, not a maker" (84).

Works Cited

Cabanne, Pierre. "Interview: Marcel Duchamp." The American Scholar 40.2 (Spring 1971).

Coleman, James W. Blackness and Modernism: The Literary Career of John Edgar Wideman. Jackson and London: University Press of Mississippi, 1989.

Deleuze, Gilles. Proust et les signes (1964). 3rd edition. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1971.

Diderot, Denis. Oeuvres. Paris: Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1951.

Douglas, Mary. Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966.

Eliot, T. S. The Waste Land (1922). Selected Poems. London: Faber and Faber, 1954.

------.Four Quartets. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1943.

Frizot, Michel, ed. Nouvelle histoire de la photographie. Paris: Bordas, 1994.

Harl, Marguerite. "Traduire la Bible." Douzièmes Assises de la Traduction Littéraire (Arles 1995). Arles: Actes Sud, 1996.

Harvey, William. Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis. 1628.

McMullen Roy. "Painters's Painting: Cubism." The American Scholar 40.3 (Summer 1971).

Mozley, Anita Ventura, ed. Eadweard Muybridge: The Stanford Years, 1872-1882. Palo Alto: Stanford University Museum of Art, 1972.

Muybridge, Eadweard. Animal Locomotion. An Electro-Photographic Investigation of Consecutive Phases of Animal Movements, 1872-1885. 11 vol. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1887. Rpt: Muybridge's Complete Human and Animal Locomotion, 3 vol. New York: Dover Publications, 1979.

Pelton, Robert D. The Trickster in West Africa: A Study of Mythic Irony and Sacred Delight. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1980.

Powell, Richard J. "Art History and Black Memory: Toward a 'Blues Aesthetic.'" History and Memory in African-American Culture. Ed. Fabre and O'Meally. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Reed, Ishmael. Mumbo Jumbo. New York: Atheneum/Macmillan, 1972.

Richard, Claude. "Causation, Causality and Etiology: A Meditation on 'Two Meditations.'" Ed. Maurice Couturier. Representation and Performance in Postmodern Fiction. Proceedings of the Nice Conference on Postmodern Fiction (April 1982). Montpellier: Delta, 1983. 8-20.

Richer, Paul. Physiologie artistique de l'homme en mouvement. Paris. 1895.

Sennet, Richard. Flesh and Stone. New York: W.W. Norton, 1994.

Thompson, Robert Farris. Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy. New York: Random House, 1983. (All references are to the 1994 Vintage Books Edition.)

Wideman, John Edgar. Brothers and Keepers. New York: Holt Rinehart, 1984. (All page references here are to the Penguin Edition, 1985.)

------. The Cattle Killing. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.

------. Fatheralong. New York: Pantheon Books, 1994.

------. "Fear in the Streets." The American Scholar 40.4 (Fall 1971): 611-22.

------. "Introduction." The Souls of Black Folk. By W.E.B. Du Bois. New York: Vintage Books / The Library of America, 1990. xi-xvi.

------. "Introduction: Abu-Jamal, Mumia, 1995." Live from Death Row. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1995. xxiii-xxxvii.

------. Identities. New York: Henry Holt, 1994. (Including A Glance Away [1967] and Hurry Home [1970].)

------. The Lynchers (1973). New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. (All page references here are to the First Owl Book Edition, 1986.)

------. Philadelphia Fire. New York: Henry Holt, 1990.

------. Reuben (1987). New York: Henry Holt. (All page references here are to the Penguin Edition, 1988.)

------. Sent for You Yesterday. New York: Avon Books, 1983.

------. The Stories of John Edgar Wideman. New York: Pantheon Books, 1992 (including Damballah).