Past and Present – With an Introduction by Cheryl A. Wall
Edited By Karla Kovalova
Literary Tradition and Black Aesthetics Revisited: Black Feminist Approaches to African American Literature in the Twenty-First Century
← 84 | 85 →Karla Kovalova
Centering on black women and seeking out their contributions to extra-literary genres (music, performance, oratory, visual culture and so on), they [black feminist projects] challenge prevailing narrative conventions and constructions of cultural and literary histories and traditions.1
In 1997, the first edition of The Norton Anthology of African American Literature was published.2 Although it was not the first anthology of African American literature to be published in the United States, it was significant because of its association with the mark of W.W. Norton, “a name that has come to represent the epitome of canonization in the field of literary studies.”3 In important ways, then, the anthology came to define the African American tradition and establish its canon, and its editors, chiefly Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Nellie Y. McKay, were well aware of its potential impact when considering what authors and texts to include. Commenting on their choices, Gates and McKay explain in the preface to the anthology that the selected texts “form a literary tradition in which African American authors collectively affirm that the will to power is the will to write and to testify eloquently in aesthetics forms never far removed from the language ← 85 | 86 →of music and the rhythmic resonance of the spoken word.”4 Their words affirm a strong link between the African American literary tradition and the vernacular, emphasizing the influence of the latter on African American letters.
The origins of the narrative about African American literature’s oral foundations...
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