Figures in Black: Words, Signs, and the "Racial" Self by Henry Louis Gates

By Henry Louis Gates

"The originality, brilliance, and scope of the paintings is remarkable.... Gates will show, satisfaction, and stimulate a huge variety of readers, either people who find themselves already good versed in Afro-American literature, and those that, after studying this e-book, will eagerly start to be."--Barbara E. Johnson, Harvard University. "A serious company of the 1st importance.... Gates gives you to guide and to teach the best way in boldness of belief, in energy of execution, and in power and pertinence of expression."--James Olney, Louisiana nation University. lately offered Honorable point out from the loo desire Franklin ebook Prize Committee of the yankee reports organization, Figures in Black takes a provocative new examine how we study and outline black literature. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., assaults the inspiration that the dominant mode of Afro-American literature is, or could be, one of those social realism, evaluated basically as a mirrored image of the "Black Experience." in its place, Gates insists that critics flip to the language of the textual content and produce to their paintings the shut, methodical research of language made attainable by means of sleek literary conception. yet his aim during this quantity isn't in basic terms to "apply" modern thought to black texts. certainly, as he levels from 18th-century poet Phillis Wheatley to trendy writers Ishmael Reed and Alice Walker, he makes an attempt to redefine literary feedback itself, relocating it clear of a Eurocentric thought of a hierarchical canon--mostly white, Western, and male--to foster a very comparative and pluralisic thought of literature. In doing so, he offers critics with a strong software for the research of black artwork and, extra very important, finds for all readers the brilliance and intensity of the Afro-American culture.

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Figures in Black: Words, Signs, and the "Racial" Self

"The originality, brilliance, and scope of the paintings is awesome. .. . Gates will teach, satisfaction, and stimulate a vast variety of readers, either people who find themselves already good versed in Afro-American literature, and people who, after studying this e-book, will eagerly start to be. "--Barbara E. Johnson, Harvard college.

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The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Criticism charts the tradition's self-contained terms for order, its internal and overriding principles of criticism. Black Letters in the Enlightenment consists of my detailed close readings of the first hundred years of the history and theory of European criticism of black creative writing. These three works, while addressing different aspects of a central question, are fundamentally related to each other as three parts of what I hope is a larger whole.

22 Figures in Black character and characteristics, which proved so pervasive in the latter half of the nineteenth century that Booker T. Washington's Up from Slavery, for example, becomes after its seventh chapter the autobiography of an institution, thereby detaching itself somewhat from the slave narrative tradition, where the rhetorical movement was from institution and property to the shaping of the human subject. This relationship between essence and value, between ethics and aesthetics, became as late as Howells's review of Dunbar's Majors and Minors, a correlation between a metaphysical blackness and a physical blackness.

The command of a written language, then, could be no mean thing in the life of the slave. Learning to read, the slave narratives repeat again and again, was a decisive political act; learning to write, as measured against an eighteenth-century scale of culture and society, was an irreversible step away from the cotton field toward a freedom larger even than physical manumission. What the use of language entiled for personal social mobility and what it implied about the public Negro mind made for the onerous burden of literacy, a burden having very little to do with the use of language as such, a burden so pervasive that the nineteenth-century quest for literacy and the twentieth-century quest for form became the central, indeed controlling, metaphors (if not mythical matrices) in Afro-American narrative.

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