Ideologies Of African American Literature

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This book embarks on new intellectual terrain as the first systematic and theoretically grounded sociological study of African American literature. It examines the impact of race relations, as well as other social and political forces, on the development of the dominant ideological outlooks of African American literature. Spanning the fifty year period from 1920 to 1970, encompassing the mass northern movement, urbanization, and modernization of the African American community, and culminating in the civil rights revolution, it is the first sociological study that situates black literary discourse, and the major black American literary intellectuals (e.g. Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka), in the social and political developments of American race relations. By analyzing the formation, influence, and decline of each of the five dominant schools of black literary discourse over those five tumultuous decades, it explains how black literary production not only reacted to — but also was shaped and constrained by — the racial caste system. The book concludes with a theoretical chapter that links the dominant black literary outlooks to white American culture. Rejecting the simplistic notion that all cultural expression by black Americans reflects the community's social consciousness, this theoretical discussion sets forth a comparative analytical framework for understanding the social locations and functions of the different spheres of African American cultural production.

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Editorial Reviews

An extremely impressive book offering a provocative interpretation that is certain to be discussed and argued about.
Ethnic and Racial Studies
This thoroughly informative book not only expands our understanding of African American literature but also challenges future scholarship.
Wendy Griswold
Robert Washington's painstaking comparison of five black literary movements is certain to stimulate debate, reflection, outrage. Literary sociology is rarely as provocative as this. Members of the black literary community, and the white liberals, who have appeared to support them, will need to respond to Washington's devastating analysis.
Houston A. Baker
Exploring in unique and powerful ways the shaping forces of a literary movement, this exciting work of scholarship shifts the ways we must read Afro-American literature. With precision and analytical skill, Washington carries us persuasively into heretofore neglected domains of black literature and its production in the United States.
William Julius Wilson
The Ideologies of African American Literature is a powerful and truly engaging book. It is packed with insights on how the ideological climate of American race relations influenced the writings of the dominant black literary schools from the 1920s through the 1960s. Robert Washington's scholarship is impressive and his provocative arguments will be discussed and debated for many years.
Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Ideologies of African American Literature is the most sophisticated analysis of the sociology of black literature yet published. This book is superior in every way, and is essential reading for all students of the African American literary tradition.
An extremely impressive book offering a provocative interpretation that is certain to be discussed and argued about.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742509498
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/2001
  • Pages: 382
  • Product dimensions: 0.88 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 6.14 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert E. Washington is professor of sociology at Bryn Mawr College.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction: Black American Literature in Sociological Perspective Chapter 2 The Era of the Primitivist School: The Beginning of Black American Literature's Public Role Chapter 3 The Era of the Naturalistic Protest School: The Politicization of Black American Literature Chapter 4 The Era of the Existentialist School: Political Disillusionment and Retreat into Individualism Chapter 5 The Era of the Moral Suasion School: Political Re-Engagement through Protest for Civil Rights Chapter 6 Amiri Baraka and the Rise of the Counterhegemonic Black Cultural Nationalist School Chapter 7 A Theoretical Overview Chapter 8 Epilogue: The New Postpolitical Black Literary Culture Chapter 9 Index

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