Within the Circle

An Anthology of African American Literary Criticism from the Harlem Renaissance to the Present

Within the Circle

Book Pages: 544 Illustrations: Published: November 1994

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

Within the Circle is the first anthology to present the entire spectrum of twentieth-century African American literary and cultural criticism. It begins with the Harlem Renaissance, continues through civil rights, the Black Arts Movement, and on into contemporary debates of poststructuralist and black feminist theory. Drawing on a quote from Frederick Douglass for the title of this book, Angelyn Mitchell explains in her introduction the importance for those "within the circle" of African American literature to examine their own works and to engage this critical canon.
The essays in this collection—many of which are not widely available today—either initiated or gave critical definition to specific periods or movements of African American literature. They address issues such as integration, separatism, political action, black nationalism, Afrocentricity, black feminism, as well as the role of art, the artist, the critic, and the audience. With selections from Langston Hughes, Sterling Brown, W. E. B. DuBois, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Barbara Smith, Alice Walker, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and many others, this definitive collection provides a dynamic model of the cultural, ideological, historical, and aesthetic considerations in African American literature and literary criticism.
A major contribution to the study of African American literature, this volume will serve as a foundation for future work by students and scholars. Its importance will be recognized by all those interested in modern literary theory as well as general readers concerned with the African American experience.

Selections by (partial list): Houston A. Baker, Jr., James Baldwin, Sterling Brown, Barbara Christian, W. E. B. DuBois, Ralph Ellison, LeRoi Jones, Sarah Webster Fabio, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., W. Lawrence Hogue, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Alain Locke, Deborah E. McDowell, Toni Morrison, J. Saunders Redding, George Schuyler, Barbara Smith, Valerie Smith, Hortense J. Spillers, Robert B. Stepto, Alice Walker, Margaret Walker, Mary Helen Washington, Richard Wright


“Gone forever is the notion that African American intellectual work in literary criticism is a recent affair, perhaps invented for the present multicultural stage by critical superstars like Henry Louis Gates or Houston Baker. Rather than imagining a W. E. B. DeBois or a Richard Wright as a nearly solitary voice speaking as if miraculously out of an African American cultural void, we begin to see these critics and theorists joined in an extended a complex conversation, a continuing and multifaceted intellectual arguement. . . . [This volume] is in many ways not only a representation of the history of African American literary criticism, but also an argument about what it means to be African American and a literary critic.” — Peter Powers, The Texas Review

"Within the Circle is essential reading for anyone interested in American literature, twentieth-century cultural criticism, or the African American intellectual canon. It belongs on every bookshelf and, more important, as required reading within the American literature classroom. Angelyn Mitchell has done us all an invaluable service. It is a landmark achievement." — Cathy N. Davidson

"As Within the Circle chronicles the development of twentieth-century African American literary criticism and theory, it illustrates the impressive breadth and highlights the critical issues of the tradition. Mitchell’s fine editorial judgment in the selection and her thorough insights in her introductory comments complete a task that scholars of African American literature have been eagerly awaiting. This anthology is a precious addition to African American literary scholarship." — Karla Holloway


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Angelyn Mitchell is Assistant Professor of English at Georgetown University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: Voices Within the Circle: A Historical Overview of African American Literary Criticism 1

I. The Harlem Renaissance

The New Negro / Alain Locke 21

The Negro in American Literature / William Stanley Braithwaite 32

The Gift of Laughter / Jessie Fauset 45

The Negro-Art Hokum / George S. Schuyler 51

The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain / Langston Hughes 55

Criteria of Negro Art / W.E.B. DuBois 60

Our Literary Audience / Sterling A. Brown 69

Characteristics of Negro Expression / Zora Neale Hurston 79

II. Humanistic/Ethical Criticism and the Protest Tradition

Blueprint for Negro Writing / Richard Wright 97

American Negro Literature / J. Saunders Redding 107

What White Publishers Won't Print / Zora Neale Hurston 117

New Poets / Margaret Walker 122

Twentieth-Century Fiction and the Black Mask of Humanity / Ralph Ellison 134

Everybody's Protest Novel / James Baldwin 149

Integration and Race Literature / Arthur P. Davis 156

III. The Black Arts Movement

The Myth of a "Negro Literature" / LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) 165

Ethnic Impact in American Literature: Reflections on a Course / George E. Kent 172

The Black Arts Movement / Larry Neal 184

Towards a Black Aesthetic / Hoyt W. Fuller 199

Cultural Strangulation: Black Literature and the White Aesthetic / Addison Gayle, Jr. 207

Toward a Definition: Black Poetry of the Sixties (After LeRoi Jones) / Don L. Lee (Haki Madhubuti) 213

Tripping with Black Writing / Sarah Webster Fabio 224

IV. Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, and the African-American Critic

Preface to Blackness: Text and Pretext / Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 245

I Rose and Found My Voice: Narration, Authentication, and Authored Control in Four Slave Narratives / Robert B. Stepto 256

Generational Shifts and the Recent Criticism of Afro-American Literature / Houston A. Baker, Jr. 282

Literary Production: A Silence in Afro-American Critical Practice / W. Lawrence Hogue 329

The Race for Theory / Barbara Christian 348

Appropriate Gestures: Theory and Afro-American Literary Criticism / Michael Awkward 360

Unspeakable Things Unspoken: The Afro-American Presence in American Literature / Toni Morrison 368

V. Gender, Theory, and African-American Feminist Criticism

In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens / Alice walker 401

Toward a Black Feminist Criticism / Barbara Smith 410

New Directions for Black Feminist Criticism / Deborah E. McDowell 428

"The Darkened Eye Restored": Notes Toward a Literary History of Black Women / Mary Helen Washington 442

Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: An American Grammar Book / Hortense J. Spillers 454

Gender and Afro-Americanist Literary Theory and Criticism / Valerie Smith 482

But What Do We Think We're Doing Anyway: The State of Black Feminist Criticism(s) or My Version of a Little Bit of History / Barbara Christian 499

Some Implications for Related Reading 523

Acknowledgment of Copyrights 526

About the Critics 528

Index of Selected Names 531

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1544-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1536-0
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