Criticism and the Color Line: Desegregating American Literary Studies

Synopsis

This volume celebrates the hybridity of American literary culture. Over the last decade and more, American literary studies have tended, with only a few rare and recent exceptions, to look at separate strands of literary history and tradition--African American or white, male or female, lesbian or gay or straight. Every contributor to this collection, no matter how widely varied the point of view in other ways, examines the dynamic relationship between "mainstream" and African-American expressive traditions in American culture. Engaging the work of writers from Edgar Allan Poe and Frederick Douglass to William Styron and Ernest Gaines, they concur in treating the color line as a site of cultural mutation where American identities are produced, not diluted, through acts of cultural exchange. The book draws new research into the rich, contentious, yet thoroughly pluralistic cultural equation that is American literature. Toni Morrison's ground-breaking lecture, "Unspeakable Things Unspoken: The Afro-American Presence in American Literature" opens the book, which then moves on to provocative essays by scholars who have heeded her call for a rethinking of American literary tradition, black and white.

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