Icons of African American Literature: The Black Literary World

Icons of African American Literature: The Black Literary World

Icons of African American Literature: The Black Literary World

Icons of African American Literature: The Black Literary World


"Icons of African American Literature: The Black Literary World" examines 24 of the most popular and culturally significant topics within African American literature's long and immensely fascinating history. Each piece provide substantial, in-depth information--much more than a typical encyclopedia entry--while remaining accessible and appealing to general and younger readers.

Arranged alphabetically, the entries cover such writers as Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and August Wilson; major works, such as "Invisible Man," "Native Son," and "Their Eyes Were Watching God"; and a range of cultural topics, including the black arts movement, the Harlem Renaissance, and the jazz aesthetic. Written by expert contributors, the essays discuss the enduring significance of these topics in American history and popular culture. Each entry also provides sidebars that highlight interesting information and suggestions for further reading.


Many works and authors enjoy fleeting popularity. They may be included on course syllabi for a while or appear on bestseller lists for a few weeks, but then they fall into obscurity. While few authors and works have enduring, iconic significance, those that do seem to remain recognizable and popular despite the passing of time; they are mainstays in literature classrooms and are continually the subjects of theses and dissertations. From early seminal works such as Booker T. Washington’s Up from Slavery through contemporary works such as August Wilson’s 10-play cycle that documents the African American experience, iconic works and authors such as these have played a tremendous role in the canonization of African American literature.

In fact, the contemporary interest in and recognition of African American literature can be attributed, in part, to several iconic texts, writers, movements, and literary ideals. Icons of African American Literature identifies and defines 24 of the most recognizable and popular subjects related to African American literature. The subjects identified as icons are widely regarded and read and are generally considered as canonical. Their appeal crosses literary boundaries; they are not limited to studies of African American literature but can be found in studies of American literature, women, history, and other areas. These subjects have permanence, too; they are just as appealing and insightful today as they were years ago. They continue to be the focus of contemporary research and are the standard to which other works are compared. They are the subjects and basis of film, theatrical productions, and critical texts.

In addition to canonical works and writers such as Toni Morrison, The Color Purple, Ralph Ellison, and Native Son, movements such as Black Arts and the Harlem Renaissance are also included because many African American writers and texts have been influenced by the cultural and social nuances of those periods. A survey of any number of African American works will reveal that many of them address or use as their subjects pertinent issues from the Black Arts and Harlem Renaissance movements. It can also be argued that . . .

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