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Black Feminist Literary Criticism

Past and Present – With an Introduction by Cheryl A. Wall

Edited By Karla Kovalova

Since its inception, black feminist literary criticism has produced a number of sophisticated theoretical works that have challenged traditional approaches to (black) literature. This collection of essays explores past and current productions of black feminist theorizing, attempting to trace the trajectories in black feminist criticism that have emerged in American scholarship since the 1990s. Taking black feminist literary criticism as the subject of inquiry, the book focuses on the field’s recent theoretical contributions to literary productions and their impact on other fields. The volume contains an introduction by Cheryl A. Wall, and essays by Karla Kovalova, Heike Raphael-Hernandez, and Nagueyalti Warren.
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← 10 | 11 →Preface


In her recent poetry collection The New Black (2011), Evie Shockley crafts a poem in memory of Audre Lorde, Toni Cade Bambara, Sherley Anne Williams, Barbara Christian, Claudia Tate, June Jordan, and Nellie Y. McKay to pay homage to women who, despite having lost their battle with cancer, left a tremendous legacy.1 As artists and scholars, they channeled into their work love, courage, and beauty, insisting on the transforming potential of literature. Each of these women holds a special place among the founding mothers of black feminist criticism.

This volume has grown out of respect for the scholarship of these women as well as those whose writing continues in line with their legacy. Its genesis can be loosely linked to three events. Event One: In 2006, within its section on “Theories and Methodologies,” PMLA, the journal of the Modern Language Association of America, published ten essays by prominent feminist scholars addressing the issue of the relevance of feminist criticism in the twenty-first century. Titled “Symposium: Feminist Criticism Today: In Memory of Nellie McKay,” the selection of essays paradoxically failed to include a black feminist scholar’s perspective on the issue under examination.2 Instead, it featured an interview with McKay, the late pioneering black feminist critic, recording her memories about the past life of black feminist literary criticism: the emergence of black literature in the academy, and the establishment of black women’s literature in the canon. This oversight left an unanswered question: what is a black feminist response to the...

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