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ELIT 48C Class # 9
Complement is a noun or verb that means
something that completes or makes up a whole:
“The red sweater is a perfect complement to the
Compliment is a noun or verb that means an
expression of praise or admiration: “I received
compliments about my new red sweater.”
Easily Confused or Misused Words | Infoplease.com
African American (Minority)
Toni Morrison: American novelist, American
literary critic, editor, and professor.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. : American literary critic,
educator, scholar, writer, editor, and public
+The following perspectives help identify
African American criticism notes that black writing
comes out of a sociological, political, ideological, and
cultural situation marked by oppression and
marginalization. “Black” reading then must negotiate
the difficult boundaries between textual and cultural
Black criticism has substantial ties to post-colonial
criticism, and to the issues in it of the representation of the
'other” and the reclamation of identity in the forms and
language of the oppressor.
African American criticism has an awareness
that black experience has ties to African
language, cultural practices, and attitudes, that
it is formed through the experience of slavery
and violence, that it has endured a long and
troubled negotiation with white culture, so that
black artistic production in white cultures is
marked by white culture positively and
African American criticism is a struggle over
the relation of race, reading, and critical theory,
similar in some respects to that of feminist
Who “speaks for” blacks?
Can only blacks “read” black literature?
Can black literature be read with the tools of
contemporary criticism, or does it demand a
more basic, moral and ideological
African American criticism examines how white writing in
racist countries reveals the nature of the oppression of
Toni Morrison, for instance, argues that American culture
is built on, and always includes, the presence of blacks, as
slaves, as outsiders. Morrison likens the unwillingness of
academics in a racist society to see the place of
Africanism in literature and culture to the centuries of
unwillingness to see feminine discourse, concerns, and
She posits whiteness as the “other” of blackness, a
dialectical pair (each term both creates and excludes the
other): no freedom without slavery, no white without black.
African American criticism is also an attempt to come to terms
with the whole issue of what “race” is.
Historically race has been seen as something essential. That race is
inherent, a matter of 'blood', was and is firmly believed by
Americans, is clear from the recent autobiography of an American,
Gregory Howard Williams, now Dean of the Law School at Ohio
State, Life on the Color Line, a man who looks white, and whose
father passed as Italian in Virginia, where his family was not known.
He was, in Virginia, accepted and treated as white, but he was
treated as black (and hence was the victim of exclusion and other
prejudicial behavior) when the family returned to their home town of
Muncie, Indiana: there they knew that his grandmother was black;
therefore, he was black.
When is white black?-- When you have some “black blood”? Or
when people know or think you have black blood?
As a subject matter, any analysis of a literary work written by
an African American, regardless of the theoretical framework
used, might be called African American criticism, even if no
attention is paid to elements in the text that are specifically
However, as a theoretical framework [. . .] African American
criticism foregrounds race (racial identity, African American
cultural traditions, psychology, politics, and so forth) as the
object of analysis because race, in America, informs our
individual and cultural psychology, and therefore our literature,
in profound ways. As a theoretical framework, then, African
American criticism can be used to analyze any literary
text that speaks to African American issues, regardless of
the race of its author, although the work of African American
writers is the primary focus (Tyson 394).
In The Souls of Black Folk, arguably W.E.B. DuBois‟s most
famous work, he introduces and addresses two concepts that
describe the quintessential Black experience in America. The
first is the concept of “the veil. ”
The veil concept primarily refers to three conditions of racial
The literal darker skin of Blacks, which is a physical
demarcation of difference from whiteness.
White people‟s lack of clarity to see Blacks as “true”
Blacks‟ lack of clarity to see themselves outside of what
white America describes and prescribes for them.
The second concept that Debois introduces is “double-
consciousness.” This concept is inextricably intertwined with “the veil.”
The veil dampens the view of both Blacks and Whites, yet
Blacks traditionally have a better understanding of whites than
the reverse because of the “two-ness” lived by Black Americans.
Understanding being Black and what that has historically meant
(or means) in America, Black people know they operate in two
Americas— one that is White and one that is Black. This is the
phenomena of “double-consciousness,” the awareness of the
“two-ness” of being both American and African American and
the largely unconscious and instinctive shifts between the these
QHQ: Racism and Racial Realism
1. Q: Why do some people have this idea
that one race is superior than another?
When will we be able to view everyone
2. Q: The most obvious question of all, is
oppression still alive for minorities?
3. Q: Can mankind ever be free of racism?
4. Q: Is the philosophy of Racial Realism
more helpful or harmful?
Racial realism is
defined by Tyson as
“the conviction that
racial equality will
never be achieved in
the United States
and that African
believing that it will.”
Internalized and Institutionalized
1. Q: Do we live in a Internalized
2. Q: Was the creation of Black
Vernacular English meant to
stabilize institutionalized White
often results in intra-
racial racism, which
the black community
against those with
darker skin and
QHQ: African American Criticism
1. Q: Why are African American criticisms overlooked and [why
did] “white American literary historians consider black writers,
when they considered them at all, as a tributary or an
offshoot rather than part and parcel of American literary
history”? (Tyson 361).
2. Q: Would African American literature have had the deep
complexity and powerful voice if they were not subject to
double consciousness due to the institutionalized American
racism that was prevalent during these times?
1. How do different systems of oppression intersect with one
2. Is the way a woman looks at feminist criticism similar to the
way an African American looks at African American criticism?
3. Why is racial realism a sickening but very real possibility and
how can it be applied to feminist theory?
The Great Gatsby
In chapter four, Gatsby takes Nick in hurtling in his car towards
Manhattan with “fenders spread like wings” to witness the power his
money has bought him. In less than a page, the narrator Nick makes
several pejorative comments that address aspects of race and ethnicity,
noting friends of a dead man who had “…the tragic eyes and short upper
lips of southeastern Europe,” as well as introducing us to Gatsby‟s
colleague, Mr. Wofsheim, who he describes as a “small, flat-nosed Jew.”
Nick notices something he finds extraordinary: “As we crossed
Blackwell‟s Island, a limousine passed us, driven by a white chauffeur, in
which sat three modish negroes, two bucks and a girl. I laughed aloud as
the yolks of their eyeballs rolled toward us in haughty rivalry. „Anything
can happen now that we‟ve slid over this bridge,‟ I thought; „anything at
The Great Gatsby
There is a scene in the book in the beginning when Tom is
reading a book called “The Rise of the Colored Empires” by a
man named “Goddard.” Tom tells Nick that “civilization‟s going
to pieces” and that it is “scientifically proven.” I think this is a
form of institutionalized racism, since this book that Tom is
reading seems to have made it into the canon and the fact that
it is “scientifically proven” seems like the dominant race in
America, the whites, are trying really hard to keep the black
people in place.
Some questions African American
critics ask about literary texts
1. What can the work teach us about the specifics of African heritage,
African American culture and experience, and/or African American
2. What are the racial politics (ideological agendas related to racial
oppression or liberation) of specific African American works?
Does the work correct stereotypes of African Americans?
Does it correct historical misrepresentations of African Americans?
Does it celebrate African American culture, experience, and
Does it explore racial issues, including, among others, the economic,
social, or psychological effects of racism?
Or, does it, as can be seen in the literary production of many white
authors, does the work reinforce racist ideologies?
More questions African American
critics ask about literary texts
3. What are the poetics (literary devices and strategies) of
specific African American works?
Does the work use black vernacular or standard white English?
Does the work draw on African myths or African American
folktales or folk motifs?
Does the work provide imagery that resonates with African
American women’s domestic space, African American cultural
practices, history, or heritage?
What are the effects of these literary devices, and how do they
relate to the theme, or meaning, of the work?
4. How does the work participate in the African American
literary tradition? In short, what place does it occupy in African
American literary history or in African American women’s
5. How does the work illustrate interest convergences, the
social construction of race, white privilege, or any other
concept from critical race theory? How can an understanding
of these concepts deepen our interpretation of the work?
6. How is an Africanist presence—black characters, stories
about black people, representations of black speech, images
associated with Africa or with blackness—used in works by
white writers to construct positive portrayals of white
Read: Critical Theory
Today: Chapter 10
“Lesbian, Gay, and
Queer Criticism” pp.
Post #9: QHQ:
Lesbian, Gay, and Queer