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A New Political History of African American Literature
The political value of African American literature has long been a topic of great debate among American writers, both black and white, from Thomas Jefferson to Barack Obama. In his compelling new book, Representing the Race, Gene Andrew Jarrett traces the genealogy of this topic in order to develop an innovative political history of African American literature. Jarrett examines texts of every sort—pamphlets, autobiographies, cultural criticism, poems, short stories, and novels—to parse the myths of authenticity, popular culture, nationalism, and militancy that have come to define African American political activism in recent decades. He argues that unless we show the diverse and complex ways that African American literature has transformed society, political myths will continue to limit our understanding of this intellectual tradition.
Cultural forums ranging from the printing press, schools, and conventions, to parlors, railroad cars, and courtrooms provide the backdrop to this African American literary history, while the foreground is replete with compelling stories, from the debate over racial genius in early American history and the intellectual culture of racial politics after slavery, to the tension between copyright law and free speech in contemporary African American culture, to the political audacity of Barack Obama's creative writing. Erudite yet accessible, Representing the Race is a bold explanation of what's at stake in continuing to politicize African American literature in the new millennium.
Incest, Miscegenation, and Multiculturalism in the United States, 1880-1930
In the United States miscegenation is not merely a subject of literature and popular culture. It is in many ways the foundation of contemporary imaginary community. The Romance of Race examines the role of minority women writers and reformers in the creation of our modern American multiculturalism.
The national identity of the United States was transformed between 1880 and 1930 due to mass immigration, imperial expansion, the rise of Jim Crow, and the beginning of the suffrage movement. A generation of women writers and reformers—particularly women of color—contributed to these debates by imagining new national narratives that put minorities at the center of American identity. Jane Addams, Pauline Hopkins, Onoto Watanna (Winnifred Eaton), María Cristina Mena, and Mourning Dove (Christine Quintasket) embraced the images of the United States—and increasingly the world—as an interracial nuclear family. They also reframed public debates through narratives depicting interracial encounters as longstanding, unacknowledged liaisons between white men and racialized women that produced an incestuous, mixed-race nation.
By mobilizing the sexual taboos of incest and miscegenation, these women writers created political allegories of kinship and community. Through their criticisms of the nation’s history of exploitation and colonization, they also imagined a more inclusive future. As Jolie A. Sheffer identifies the contemporary template for American multiculturalism in the works of turn-of-the century minority writers, she uncovers a much more radical history than has previously been considered.
U.S. Imperialism and the Problem of the Color Line
Intercultural Connections in Puerto Rican, African American, and Chicano Narratives and Culture (1965–1995)
The second phase of the civil rights movement (1965-1973) was a pivotal period in the development of ethnic groups in the United States. In the years since then, new generations have asked new questions to cast light on this watershed era. No longer is it productive to consider only the differences between ethnic groups; we must also study them in relation to one another and to U.S. mainstream society. In “Shakin' Up” Race and Gender, Marta E. Sánchez creates an intercultural frame to study the historical and cultural connections among Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and Chicanos/as since the 1960s. Her frame opens up the black/white binary that dominated the 1960s and 1970s. It reveals the hidden yet real ties that connected ethnics of color and “white” ethnics in a shared intercultural history. By using key literary works published during this time, Sánchez reassesses and refutes the unflattering portrayals of ethnics by three leading intellectuals (Octavio Paz, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Oscar Lewis) who wrote about Chicanos, African Americans, and Puerto Ricans. She links their implicit misogyny to the trope of La Malinche from Chicano culture and shows how specific characteristics of this trope—enslavement, alleged betrayal, and cultural negotiation—are also present in African American and Puerto Rican cultures. Sánchez employs the trope to restore the agency denied to these groups. Intercultural contact—encounters between peoples of distinct ethnic groups—is the theme of this book.
Three Black Women's Autobiographies of the Nineteenth Century
"Sisters of the Spirit... should interest a wider audience.... These fascinating accounts can stand on their own.... Mr. Andrews has made them even more accessible by providing a comprehensive introduction and helpful footnotes... but he does not intrude on the text itself." -- New York Times Book Review
"... informative and inspiring reading." -- The Journal of American History
Jarena Lee, Zilpha Elaw, and Julia Foote underwent a revolution in their own sense of self that helped to launch a feminist revolution in American religious life and in American society as a whole.
Literature, History, Orature
Episodes of slave rebellions such as Nat Turner's are central to speculations on the trajectory of black history and the goal of black spiritual struggles. Using fiction, history, and oral poetry drawn from the United States, the Caribbean, and Africa, this book analyzes how writers reinterpret episodes of historical slave rebellion to conceptualize their understanding of an ideal "master-less" future. The texts range from Frederick Douglass's The Heroic Slave and Alejo Carpentier's The Kingdom of this World to Yoruba praise poetry and novels by Nigerian writers Adebayo Faleti and Akinwumi Isola. Each text reflects different "national" attitudes toward the historicity of slave rebellions that shape the ways the texts are read. This is an absorbing book about the grip of slavery and rebellion on modern black thought.
The Choice of Bondage in Narratives by African American Women
Examines why African American women would choose conditions of bondage over individual freedom. Why would someone choose bondage over individual freedom? What kinds of freedom can be found in choosing conditions of enslavement? In Something Akin to Freedom, Winner of the 2008 SUNY Press Dissertation/First Book Prize in African American Studies, Stephanie Li explores literary texts where African American women decide to remain in or enter into conditions of bondage, sacrificing individual autonomy to achieve other goals. In fresh readings of stories by Harriet Jacobs, Hannah Crafts, Gayl Jones, Louisa Picquet and Toni Morrison, Li argues that amid shifting positions of power and through acts of creative agency, the women in these narratives make seemingly anti-intuitive choices that are simultaneously limiting and liberating. She explores how the appeal of the freedom of the North is constrained by the potential for isolation and destabilization for women rooted in the strong social networks in the South. By introducing reproduction, mother-child relationships and community into discourses concerning resistance, Li expands our understanding of individual liberation to include the courage to express personal desire and the freedom to love.
Essays on African American Literature
South of Tradition focuses not only on well-known writers such as Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Richard Wright, but also on up-and-coming writers such as Randall Kenan and less-known writers such as Brent Wade and Henry Dumas. Harris-Lopez addresses themes of sexual and racial identity, reconceptualizations of and transcendence of Christianity, analyses of African American folk and cultural traditions, and issues of racial justice. Many of her subjects argue that geography shapes identity, whether that geography is the European territory many blacks escaped to from the oppressive South, or the South itself, where generations of African Americans have had to come to grips with their relationship to the land and its history. For Harris-Lopez, "south of tradition" refers both to geography and to readings of texts that are not in keeping with expected responses to the works. She explains her point of departure for the essays as "a slant, an angle, or a jolt below the line of what would be considered the norm for usual responses to African American literature."
The scope of Harris-Lopez's work is tremendous. From her coverage of noncanonical writers to her analysis of humor in the best-selling The Color Purple, she provides essential material that should inform all future readings of African American literature.
Geographies of Race, Region, and Literature
By interpreting segregation as the central experience for twenty-first century southern literature (just as slavery was for an earlier generation of writers) and by theorizing the interconnected aspects of racial and spatial constructions in the formation of the nation, Davis shows us a way to understand black space--social, spatial, and artistic arenas of creativity--not just in terms of exclusion and of pushing back/reacting against, but as sites of memory and imagination far beyond wounds and danger. Looking inside the boundaries of segregation, Davis charts the trajectory from modernism to postmodernism in the works of Richard Wright, Alice Walker, Ernest Gaines, Natasha Trethewey, Olympia Vernon, Brenda Marie Osbey, Sybil Kein, and Shay Youngblood. This analysis, working at the intersection of race, gender, place, and region, will likely become a standard work in new southern studies.
The Cultural Politics of the Black Power Movement and the Search for a Black Aesthetic
Amy Ongiri explores the interface between Black Power politics, the Black Arts cultural movement, and the production of postwar African American popular culture (from novels to hip hop and film) to show how formative they were for the construction of Black identity and the emergence of a Black aesthetic in the 1960s and 1970s.