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Brave to be Involved

Shifting Positions in the Poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks

Yomna Saber

Although Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2004) was the first African American writer to win the Pulitzer Prize, she occupies a curious position in the larger black canon. Despite her importance, with the exception of very few critical accounts of her work, she has been usually treated in critical isolation from her black peers, be they male or female. Brooks’s earlier stages were discarded by many black critics as works directed to white audiences, whereas black critics who became interested in her nationalist phase limited her to the Black Aesthetic perspective. Such approaches to Brooks’s opus fail to do justice to her work which stood on equal footing with other groundbreaking works in terms of her pioneering themes and techniques. This book examines all of Brooks’s stages while tracing the changes that marked her voice throughout. By comparing and contrasting her work to Richard Wright, Margaret Walker, Ralph Ellison, Lorraine Hansberry, Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez, it becomes possible to highlight the distinct poetic legacy of Brooks. The aim of this book is to assess the extent to which Brooks participated in the black canon and to examine how far her realistic settings and individualised characters resulted in a poetry capable of providing accurate reflections of black life in America throughout five very vibrant decades.
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Gendered Masks of Liminality and Race

Black Female Trickster’s Subversion of Hegemonic Discourse in African American Women Literature

Yomna Saber

Shape shifters, purveyors of chaos, rules’ breakers, crude creatures and absurd figures, tricksters can be traced as recurrently transgressive figures that do not wither away with time. Tricksters rove and ramble in the pages of literature; the canon is replete with tricksters who throw dust in the eyes of their dupes and end up victoriously. But what if the trickster is African American? And a female? And an African American female? This book limits the focus to this figure as delineated in the writings of: Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde and Toni Morrison. The black female trickster’s battles provoke unique strategies of tricksterism. Her liminal positionality is distinguished for she occupies myriad peripheries in terms of class, race and gender; in addition to her social oppressions, and carrying within a legacy of African spirituality and an excruciating history of slavery. The black female trickster subverts hegemonic discourse individualistically; through tricks, she emerges as a victim who refuses victimization, disturbs the status quo and challenges many conventions.