What Was African American Literature?

Kenneth Warren, Harvard Univ., $22.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-674-04922-2
Warren, professor of English at the University of Chicago, expands on his 2007 W.E.B. Du Bois Lectures at Harvard University to provocatively claim that African-American literature ended with the "legal demise" of Jim Crow. "Absent white suspicions of, or commitment to imposing, black inferiority, African American literature would not have existed as a literature," he writes, presenting the tradition as more of a historical entity than an "ongoing expression of a distinct people." He offers a fresh assessment of George Schuyler's Black No More ("which treats with irreverence what other novels regard as tragedy"); he's instructive in his consideration of the differences in editorial expectations and content in black journals between 1925 and 1950, as well as opinionated but fair as he reviews assorted critical arguments (e.g., Addison Gayle vs. Herbert Hill, Gerald Early vs. Nick Chiles), and informative in his attention to current writers, both the conventionally literary (e.g., David Bradley, Edward P. Jones) and pulp. A slight but forceful text with a pugnacious and elegantly presented thesis. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 09/20/2010
Release date: 01/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 193 pages - 978-0-674-05956-6
Paperback - 180 pages - 978-0-674-06629-8
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