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"Ervin's comprehensive and handy compilation of essential background and interpretive materials for studying African American literature fills a void that has existed in literary scholarship. Both scholars and students will find it an indispensable resource."--Annie S. Perkins, Norfolk State University
"An impressive, necessary reference tool. A guide to the origins of terms used to create ethnic resonance in descriptions of African American literary works, the book also includes traditional terms appropriated for the purpose of locating African American works in a metahistory."--Jerry W. Ward, Jr., Dillard University
This is the first comprehensive resource devoted to the analysis, interpretation, history, and appreciation of African American literature. The definitive book on the subject, it will be indispensable to students, scholars, and libraries at all levels.
The handbook features an A to Z compilation of 415 literary terms, ages, movements, periods, and cultural sources, all cross-referenced. Terms include techniques, genres, themes, forms, well-known phrases, modes of discourse, theoretical concepts, and diction from music and linguistics. Definitions provide substantive discussion and cite specific examples from the works of major critics and major and minor writers from the 1700s to the present. Up-to-date and relevant, the guide includes information from the colonial and reconstruction periods to the postmodern era and from cultural sources ranging from folk legends to hip-hop music.
Eight full-length essays, which serve as introductions to important aspects of literary theory and criticism, cover major terms--ambiguity, memory, signification, repetition, collective unconscious, representation, influence, and literary history. In addition to discussions of the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement, the book describes the Chicago Renaissance of the 1930s to 1950s, the New Renaissance of the 1950s, and the new black aesthetics of the 1980s. An especially compelling feature of the book is a literary timeline, divided into sections for African, African American, and Anglophone Caribbean literature that illustrates what was written during the same years in different parts of the world. The book also lists awards and honors given to African American authors.
Long overdue, Hazel Arnett Ervin's accessible handbook fills a void in literary arts and letters, a tribute to the rich vernacular tradition that has evolved from African American oral and written expression.
Hazel Arnett Ervin is associate professor of English and linguistics at Morehouse College.