Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Thomas McHaney - Chair

Second Advisor

Mary Zeigler

Third Advisor

Carolyn Denard


Few African American males do not have at least one memory of a barbershop. The barbershop is a space that finds a home in virtually every community in which you find Black males. To some degree, virtually all genres and periods of African American literary expression have situated the barbershop as a mediating space in the formulation of a Black masculine identity. The barbershop as mediating space allows Black males the opportunity to view themselves and also critique the ways in which they are gazed upon by the literary imagination. African American authors, through the use of the barbershop, bring to the center the construction of this space in Black masculinity identity formation. ¬ Although a common presence in African American literature, the barbershop has not received any serious, i.e. book length examinations in literary analysis. I argue that the historical portrayal of the barbershop as mediating space problematizes the intersections of ancestor, culture, history, memory and literary imagination to reveal the intricate relationship between Black males and the space. I seek to address the gap in coverage of the literary treatment of the African American barbershop as mediating structure in the formulation of a black masculine identity. My research will show that we cannot fully understand the literary formation of Black masculine identity unless we attend to the barbershop as a formative mediating space.