A Companion to African American Literature
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Through a series of essays that explore the forms, themes, genres, historical contexts, major authors, and latest critical approaches, A Companion to African American Literature presents a comprehensive chronological overview of African American literature from the eighteenth century to the modern day
  • Examines African American literature from its earliest origins, through the rise of antislavery literature in the decades leading into the Civil War, to the modern development of contemporary African American cultural media, literary aesthetics, and political ideologies
  • Addresses the latest critical and scholarly approaches to African American literature
  • Features essays by leading established literary scholars as well as newer voices


Gene Andrew Jarrett is Professor and Chair of the Department of English at Boston University.  He is the author of Representing the Race: A New Political History of African American Literature (2011) and Deans and Truants: Race and Realism in African American Literature (2007), and the editor or co-editor of several volumes and collections of African American literature and literary criticism. 


Notes on Contributors viii

Introduction 1
Gene Andrew Jarrett

Part I. The Literatures of Africa, Middle Passage, Slavery, and Freedom: The Early and Antebellum Periods, c.1750–1865 9

1. Back to the Future: Eighteenth-Century Transatlantic Black Authors 11
Vincent Carretta

2. Africa in Early African American Literature 25
James Sidbury

3. Ports of Call, Pulpits of Consultation: Rethinking the Origins of African American Literature 45
Frances Smith Foster and Kim D. Green

4. The Constitution of Toussaint: Another Origin of African American Literature 59
Michael J. Drexler and Ed White

5. Religion in Early African American Literature 75
Joanna Brooks and Tyler Mabry

6. The Economies of the Slave Narrative 90
Philip Gould

7. The 1850s: The First Renaissance of Black Letters 103
Maurice S. Lee

8. African American Literary Nationalism 119
Robert S. Levine

9. Periodicals, Print Culture, and African American Poetry 133
Ivy G. Wilson

Part II. New Negro Aesthetics, Culture, and Politics: The Modern Period, 1865–c.1940 149

10. Racial Uplift and the Literature of the New Negro 151
Marlon B. Ross

11. The Dialect of New Negro Literature 169
Gene Andrew Jarrett

12. African American Literary Realism, 1865–1914 185
Andreá N. Williams

13. Folklore and African American Literature in the Post-Reconstruction Era 200
Shirley Moody-Turner

14. The Harlem Renaissance: The New Negro at Home and Abroad 212
Michelle Ann Stephens

15. Transatlantic Collaborations: Visual Culture in African American Literature 227
Cherene Sherrard-Johnson

16. Aesthetic Hygiene: Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Du Bois, and the Work of Art 243
Mark Christian Thompson

17. African American Modernism and State Surveillance 254
William J. Maxwell

Part III. Reforming the Canon, Tradition, and Criticism of African American Literature: The Contemporary Period, c.1940–Present 269

18. The Chicago Renaissance 271
Michelle Yvonne Gordon

19. Jazz and African American Literature 286
Keith D. Leonard

20. The Black Arts Movement 302
James Edward Smethurst

21. Humor in African American Literature 315
Glenda R. Carpio

22. Neo-Slave Narratives 332
Madhu Dubey

23. Popular Black Women’s Fiction and the Novels of Terry McMillan 347
Robin V. Smiles

24. African American Science Fiction 360
Jeffrey Allen Tucker

25. Latino/a Literature and the African Diaspora 376
Theresa Delgadillo

26. African American Literature and Queer Studies: The Conundrum of James Baldwin 393
Guy Mark Foster

27. African American Literature and Psychoanalysis 410
Arlene R. Keizer

Name Index 421

Subject Index 442


A master archivist and historian of African American literature, Gene Jarrett has assembled a compelling new collection of essays for this necessary addition to the study of African American writing and thought. The volume offers a comprehensive survey of the African American canon, but also goes in new directions, giving fresh emphasis to the earliest writing of African Americans as well as to the exciting field of Latino/-a writing in the African Diaspora. This is a field-defining collection.”—Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University

“A Companion to African American Literature is a pathbreaking collection that will revolutionize the study of African American literature and literary culture. Written by leading established and emerging scholars in the field, the essays both provide a comprehensive overview of African American literary trends and preoccupations and challenge our conventional understanding of racial and national identities, literary genres, and intertextual influences. Accessible yet scholarly, this volume will be of enormous value to scholars, students, and general readers.”—Valerie Smith, Princeton University

“Presenting a comprehensive overview of the field from the 20th cen-tury to the present, A Companion to African American Literature, ed. Gene Andrew Jarrett (Wiley-Blackwell), provides readers with a fairly comprehensive overview of one of America’s richest literary traditions.”  (American Literary Scholarship, 2012)