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Sounding the Break

African American and Caribbean Routes of World Literature

Jason Frydman

Publication Year: 2014

The idea of "world literature" has served as a crucial though underappreciated interlocutor for African diasporic writers, informing their involvement in processes of circulation, translation, and revision that have been identified as the hallmarks of the contemporary era of world literature. Yet in spite of their participation in world systems before and after European hegemony, Africa and the African diaspora have been excluded from the networks and archives of world literature. In Sounding the Break, Jason Frydman attempts to redress this exclusion by drawing on historiography, ethnography, and archival sources to show how writers such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, Alejo Carpentier, Derek Walcott, Maryse Condé, and Toni Morrison have complicated both Eurocentric and Afrocentric categories of literary and cultural production. Through their engagement with and revision of the European world literature discourse, he contends, these writers conjure a deep history of "literary traffic" whose expressions are always already cosmopolitan, embedded in the long histories of cultural and economic exchange between Africa, Asia, and Europe. It is precisely the New World American location of these writers, Frydman concludes, that makes possible this revisionary perspective on the idea of (Old) World literature.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

This book benefited from the generous support of family, friends, colleagues, libraries, and research foundations, all of whom deserve mention but some of whom I fear I may omit. I would like to thank the Research Foundation of the City University of New York...

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pp. 1-18

Edward Wilmot Blyden, born to free Igbo parents in St. Thomas, Danish West Indies, crossed the Atlantic to Liberia in 1851 to complete the education denied to him in the United States. Ordained in 1858, he soon became Fulton Professor of Greek and Latin at Liberia...

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1: World Literature and Antiquity

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pp. 19-40

Like Edward Wilmot Blyden at Liberia College, W. E. B. Du Bois briefly held a professorship of Greek and Latin at Wilberforce University. Alongside their humanist enthusiasm for Greco-Roman culture, both men inherited and promoted a counter-discourse of antiquity...

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2: World Literature in Hiding

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pp. 41-60

Zora Neale Hurston has emerged as a figure of world literature strongly associated with her accessible mappings of African diasporic vernacular culture. Tracking the transnational continuities of black social practices and performances, her literary-anthropological...

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3: Whiteness and World Literature

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pp. 61-81

The complex intersection of early twentieth-century avant-garde literature with ethnography and racial “science,” exoticism and primitivism, negrophilia and indigenism, represents a well-documented aspect of global modernism. The Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier...

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4: Dialectics of World Literature

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pp. 82-98

Readers frequently betray exhaustion with the critical debates that frame the work of Derek Walcott. Venerable Walcott critic Edward Baugh, recently reviewing four book-length author studies by four other venerable Walcott critics, writes: “None of the studies...

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5: Material Histories of World Literature

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pp. 99-118

Veronica Mercier, the Guadeloupean protagonist of Maryse Condé’s first novel, Hérémakhonon (1972), announces at the end of her sojourn in an unnamed West African country: “Je me suis trompée . . . d’aïeux [I got my ancestors wrong].”1 From the very beginning, Condé’s literary career foregrounds the vexations of genealogy...

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6: “Healing” World Literature

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pp. 119-140

InLa Migration des Coeurs, the récits of fishermen and nannies provide a popular commentary on the novel’s melodrama while connecting up formally with Wuthering Heights, prominently marked by Nelly Dean’s Yorkshire vernacular. Yet as the Caribbean vernacular...

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pp. 141-146

In Paradise, the citizens of Ruby prefer not to recognize “the fecund, anarchic but vibrant inclusiveness of the ‘raceless’ Convent.”1 The town rejuvenates itself, in fact, through its violent rejection of “the positive model of New World creolization” offered by Consolata’s Afro- Brazilian...


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pp. 147-160


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pp. 161-175


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pp. 176-184

E-ISBN-13: 9780813935744
E-ISBN-10: 0813935741
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813935720
Print-ISBN-10: 0813935725

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 876736253
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Sounding the Break

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Identity (Psychology) in literature.
  • Race in literature.
  • Caribbean literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • American literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • American literature -- African American authors -- History and criticism.
  • African diaspora in literature.
  • Literature and history.
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