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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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Literary Tradition and Black Aesthetics Revisited: Black Feminist Approaches to African American Literature in the Twenty-First Century

← 84 | 85 →Karla Kovalova

Extract

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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