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

Paperback | November 1, 1989

byHenry Louis Gates

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For over two centuries, critics and the black community have tended to approach African-American literature as simply one more front in the important war against racism, valuing slave narratives and twentieth-century works alike, primarily for their political impact. In this volume, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a leading scholar in African-American studies, attacks the notion of African-American literature as a kind of social realism. Insisting, instead, that critics focus on the most repressed element of African-American criticism--the language of thetext--Gates advocates the use of a close, methodical analysis of language, made possible by modern literary theory. Throughout his study, Gates incorporates the theoretical insights of critics such as Bakhtin, Foucault, Lacan, Derrida, and Bloom, as he examines the modes of representation thatdefine black art and analyzes the unspoken assumptions made in judging this literature since its inception. Ranging from the eighteenth-century poet, Phillis Wheatley, to modern writers, Ishmael Reed and Alice Walker, Gates seeks to redefine literary criticism itself, moving away from a Eurocentric notion of a hierarchical canon--mostly white, Western, and male--to foster a truly comparative andpluralistic notion of literature.

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From Our Editors

This insightful book, written by a leading scholar in African-American studies, attacks the notion of African-American literature as a kind of social realism. Insisting, instead, that critics focus on the most repressed element of African-American criticism- the language of the text--Henry Louis Gates, Jr. advocates the use of a close,...

From the Publisher

For over two centuries, critics and the black community have tended to approach African-American literature as simply one more front in the important war against racism, valuing slave narratives and twentieth-century works alike, primarily for their political impact. In this volume, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a leading scholar i...

From the Jacket

This insightful book, written by a leading scholar in African-American studies, attacks the notion of African-American literature as a kind of social realism. Insisting, instead, that critics focus on the most repressed element of African-American criticism- the language of the text--Henry Louis Gates, Jr. advocates the use of a close,...

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is Chairman of the Department of Afro-American Studies and W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. He is the author of The Signifying Monkey, Loose Canons, and Colored People; general editor of The Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers; and general editor of The W....

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 7.99 × 5.39 × 0.71 inPublished:November 1, 1989Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195060741

ISBN - 13:9780195060744

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From Our Editors

This insightful book, written by a leading scholar in African-American studies, attacks the notion of African-American literature as a kind of social realism. Insisting, instead, that critics focus on the most repressed element of African-American criticism- the language of the text--Henry Louis Gates, Jr. advocates the use of a close, methodical analysis of language, made possible by modern literary theory.

Editorial Reviews

"The recognition of the critical sophistication of African-American literature and cultural expressions as well as recognition of the often unremarked blackness of antinomian critical thought are signal developments of the past decade, and [this book is a] signal contribution to elaborationsof such insights."--English Language Notes