"A very impressive book. Wardi’s redefinition of the African American pastoral and her treatment of the themes of death, blues, and the collective memory are original and exciting."Charles Scruggs, University of Arizona
This book examines the preponderance of death and its accompanying funerary and mourning rituals in the African American expressive tradition. Focusing on the relationship between geography and death in African American literature, Anissa Wardi argues that the American South represents an unmarked graveyard that is simultaneously the sacred locus of the ancestors and a material memorial to their suffering. She proposes a new theoretical map that expands the definition of “home” in African American studies.
Wardi traces the evolution of the relationship between place and the culture of death from Jean Toomer’s Cane through the works of Toni Morrison, Ernest Gaines, and Gloria Naylor, providing close readings of the intertextual play in A Gathering of Old Men, Of Love and Dust, Song of Solomon, Beloved, Linden Hills, and Jazz. In so doing, she provides a fresh definition of the African American pastoral and focuses on a new and significant area in African American literaturethe importance of gravesites and death as modes of memory, illuminating the continuity between the living and the dead that is such an important theme in African American literature.
Anissa Janine Wardi is assistant professor of English and director of cultural studies and African American studies at Chatham College, Pittsburgh.