The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism

By Henry Louis Gates Jr. | Go to book overview

Notes

Chapter 1
1.
Oriki Esu, quoted by Ayodele Ogundipe, Esu Elegbara, the Yoruba God of Chance and Uncertainty: A Study in Yoruba Mythology, 2 vols. Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana University, 1978, Vol. II, p. 135.
2.
Oriki Esu, quoted by Leo Frobenius, The Voice of Africa ( New York: Benjamin Blom, 1913), Vol. I, p. 229.
3.
Larry Neal, "Malcolm X-An. Autobiography", in Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American 'Writing ( New York: William Morrow, 1968), p. 316.
4.
The literature on "African survivals" is extensive. The following sources are helpful: Okon E. Uya, "The Culture of Slavery: Black Experience Through a Filter", Afro-American Studies 1 ( 1971): 209; Robert Farris Thompson, Flash of the Spirit ( New York: Random House, 1983); William Bascom, Shango in the New World ( Austin: African and Afro-American Institute, University of Texas, 1972); Melville J. Herskovits, ed., "The Interdisciplinary Aspects of Negro Studies" ( Washington: American Council of Learned Societies Bulletin No. 32, 1941); M. G. Smith , "The African Heritage in the Caribbean", in Caribbean Studies: A Symposium, ed. Vera Rubin ( Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1960); George E. Simpson and Peter B. Hammond, "Discussion", in Caribbean Studies, ed. Rubin; Robert Farris Thompson, "African Influence on the Art of the United States", in Black Studies in the University: A Symposium, ed. Armstead L. Robinson et all. ( New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969), pp. 122-70; and Roger D. Abrahams and John F. Szwed, After Africa: Extracts from British Travel Accounts and Journals of the Seventeenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth Centuries Concerning the Slaves, Their Manners, and Customs in the British West Indies ( New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983), esp. pp. 4-22.
5.
For a brilliant parallel study to this book, see Houston A. Baker, Jr., Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature: A Vernacular Theory ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984). Baker explores another side of the Afro-American vernacular -- the blues -- as his trope for a theory of criticism based on the black vernacular music tradition, whereas I am exploring here a theory of criticism based on the linguistic and poetic traditions of the vernacular encoded in the ritual of Signifyin(g). My great indebtedness to Baker's work is obvious and is acknowledged here (especially his readings of the liminality of the trickster figure).
6.
To supplement my explication of hundreds of Oriki Esu and myths of Esu still in use today among the Yoruba of Nigeria, the Fon of Benin, the Nago of Brazil, and the Lucumi of Cuba, I have explored systematically the extensive secondary literature on Esu and his or her variants. Some sources especially useful to this study of the nature of interpretation are: Juana Elbein dos Santos and

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