Reflex and Bone Structure Critical Context
by Clarence Major

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Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Reflex and Bone Structure is a good example of Clarence Major’s continuing experiments in trying to erase the boundaries between prose and poetry. The novel fits into a body of work by the author devoted to innovative narrative techniques. In novels such as All-Night Visitors (1969), No (1973), and Emergency Exit (1979), the author uses a combination of prose experiments to present an alternative viewpoint of the African American experience. Major infuses language with new power through radical alterations of conventional plots and characterization. He stresses the beauties of sensual experience and the special gifts of black Americans.

Major is a poet and the author of the Dictionary of Afro-American Slang (1970); he is often cited as one of the founding theoreticians of the 1960’s new black aesthetic movement. As editor of the poetry anthology The New Black Poetry (1969), Major stresses the importance of African American poetic identity in collectively attempting to revolutionize social and political relationships through creation of a brotherhood of black consciousness. This African American cultural emphasis and heightened sense of the positive black identity are shared by other black writers such as Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Addison Gayle, and Ishmael Reed.