Signifyin(G)- Sanct' & Slam Dunking

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Observers of American society have long noted the distinctive contribution of African Americans to the nation's cultural life. We find references to African American music and dance, black forms of oral expression, even a black style of playing basketball. But what do such terms really mean? Is it legitimate to talk about a distinct African American aesthetic, or is this simply a vestige of an outmoded racial essentialism? What makes a particular form of cultural expression "black" other than the fact that some African Americans may practice it?
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Is there an African American aesthetic, or is such a concept a reinforcement of racial stereotyping? If there is such an aesthetic, what are some of its characteristics? Although this anthology does not provide definitive answers to such questions, its explorations make for provocative reading. The pieces (written by authors like Zora Neale Hurston and John Edgar Wideman and ranging from gospel to rap) trace African American culture back to Africa and demonstrate the influences of an African American aesthetic on American culture in general. The book is divided into three sections: music and dance (by far the largest); signifyin'--that is, oral expression; and sports. Left out are "visual art, film, humor [and] theater." Though some of the writings are uneven, and there are notable omissions (e.g., the Black Arts Movement), this engaging collection from Caponi (American Studies, Univ. of Texas, San Antonio) will be of interest to students of black studies and cultural studies. For public and academic libraries.--Louis J. Parascandola, Long Island Univ., Brooklyn, NY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
With quotes from author Ralph Ellison and others, the editor's introduction makes a case for an African American aesthetic. The 21 readings, representing diverse timeframes (1920s to 1990s) and endeavors (music and dance, the oral art of satiric signifying, and sports and public displays of the body), shed light on the issues of: What is "black" in black culture? What purpose is served by identifying a unique African American style? How have these forms of cultural expression shaped American life? Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558491830
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
  • Publication date: 10/12/1999
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 6.19 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Case for an African American Aesthetic 1
Pt. 1 Music and Dance
From Preface to The Books of American Negro Spirituals 45
An Aesthetic of the Cool: West African Dance 72
Africa and the West Indies 87
Playing the Blues 96
Africans, Europeans and the Making of Music 110
Ring Shout! Literary Studies, Historical Studies, and Black Music Inquiry 135
The Heterogeneous Sound Ideal in African-American Music 157
The Impact of Gospel Music on the Secular Music Industry 172
Flow, Layering, and Rupture in Postindustrial New York 191
"Keep to the Rhythm and You'll Keep to Life": Meaning and Style in African American Vernacular Dance 222
Lester Young and the Birth of Cool 239
On the Jazz Musician's Love/Hate Relationship with the Audience 277
Pt. 2 Signifyin(g)
Characteristics of Negro Expression 293
Signifying, Loud-Talking and Marking 309
Stylin' Outta the Black Pulpit 331
A Resistance Too Civilized to Notice 348
Pt. 3 Sports and Public Display of the Body
The Black and White Truth about Basketball 373
The Hero of the Blues 379
Michael Jordan Leaps the Great Divide 388
Be Like Mike? Michael Jordan and the Pedagogy of Desire 407
African-American Festive Style 417
From "Strolling, Jooking, and Fixy Clothes" 434
Bibliography 453
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