Visualizing Blackness and the Creation of the African American Literary Tradition

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Cambridge University Press, Feb 17, 2014 - Literary Criticism - 275 pages
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Negative stereotypes of African Americans have long been disseminated through the visual arts. This original and incisive study examines how black writers use visual tropes as literary devices to challenge readers' conceptions of black identity. Lena Hill charts two hundred years of African American literary history, from Phillis Wheatley to Ralph Ellison, and engages with a variety of canonical and lesser-known writers. Chapters interweave literary history, museum culture, and visual analysis of numerous illustrations with close readings of Booker T. Washington, Gwendolyn Bennett, Zora Neale Hurston, Melvin Tolson, and others. Together, these sections register the degree to which African American writers rely on vision - its modes, consequences, and insights - to demonstrate black intellectual and cultural sophistication. Hill's provocative study will interest scholars and students of African American literature and American literature more broadly.
 

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Contents

Witnessing Moral Authority in PreAbolition Literature
23
Picturing Education and Labor in Washington and Du Bois
55
Gazing upon Plastic Art in the Harlem Renaissance
81
Seeing by the Rules of the Natural
119
Gaining Modernist Perspective in the
148
Engaging Racial Perception beyond Museum
180
Notes
223
Bibliography
251
Index
265
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About the author (2014)

Lena Hill is Assistant Professor of English and African American Studies at the University of Iowa. She is the co-author of Ralph Ellison's nvisible Man': A Reference Guide (2008). Her work has been published in journals such as American Literature and African American Review. She received her Ph.D. from Yale University, Connecticut.

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