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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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From White Gaze to Black Female Resistance: Street Lit and Popular Cultural Productions in Black Feminist Theorizing

← 112 | 113 →Heike Raphael-Hernandez

Extract

Black Feminist Criticism: Past and Present focuses on the trajectories in Black feminist criticism that have emerged in American scholarship since the 1990s. Taking Black feminist literary criticism as its subject of inquiry, the book’s scholarly interest lies with new theoretical insights and their academic reception as well as their contributions to literary production. This chapter will discuss the responses of Black feminist theories to urban fiction/street lit, a highly controversial African American literary genre that has emerged since the 1990s and has its roots in the storytelling aesthetics of hip-hop culture. The writers of this genre pose a provocative challenge for Black feminist theorizing; at first sight, the genre appears to offer a continuation of earlier African American women writers’ interest in the discourse on ‘gender identity’ and ‘race’ which seems to allow a possible positioning into earlier, well-established Black feminist literary theories. However, in addition to ‘gender identity’ and ‘race,’ the new genre’s writers focus on ‘class’ and ‘generation’ in ways that seem to suggest that it is not possible to position them into earlier Black feminist theoretical discourse. In her essay about the place of street lit in the general African American literary canon, Alexandria White argues that the genre offers young, urban Black women, who are often living in desperately impoverished circumstances, their own quest for independence that allows them to reject the other narratives of Black female experiences that did not capture the realities of their generation’s and community’s femininity.1

Addressing this...

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