Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Color Purple and Wikipedia

[By Kenton Rambsy]

The 1983 recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (1982) has been produced as a major motion picture starring Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, Margaret Avery, and Oprah Winfrey; as a Broadway musical starring Fantasia Barrino, Renee Elise Goldsberry, and Kingsley Leggs; and as a BBC 4 (domestic British Radio) radio broadcast starring Nadine Marshall. Each version–the novel, the movie, and the musical—has fairly developed wiki entries, making The Color Purple one of the more fully developed and diversely covered works on Wikipedia out of the 100 novels in our study.

Similarly, other novels have extensively developed Wikipedia pages lending a wide variety of information about an author’s work and its influence across broad cultural categories.  Other novels such as Native Son (1940) by Richard Wright, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman (1971) by Ernest Gaines, and Dhalgren (1975) by Samuel Delany also have extensively developed Wikipedia pages.   

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Character Traits of Novel Protagonists

[By Kenton Rambsy]

A cursory look at the 100 novels in our study reveal that 55% of the protagonists are women; 45% of the novels are narrated from first person point of view, and 56% of the protagonists reside in northern cities. Large numbers of male protagonists make treks to northern cities such as characters in James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912), Langston Hughes Not Without Laughter (1930), Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952), and James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953)

The majority of novels from our collection of 100 novels published over the last 20 years have female protagonists. Only 12% of the novels, that is 12, published since 1990 have male protagonists.

Monday, November 28, 2011

100 Black Novels by Decade, 1850-2010

[Compiled By Kenton Rambsy]

The following list presents novels in our “100 Novels Project” organized by decade. These 100 novels constitute a relatively small number of HBW’s larger collection of more than 1,000 books.  

The Heroic Slave-A Novella (1852) Frederick Douglass               
Clotel: or, the President’s Daughter (1853) William Wells Brown         
Blake; Or, The Huts of America (1859) Martin R. Delany

A Charleston Love Story of Hortense Vancross (1899) Theophilus Gould Steward
Imperium in Imperio (1899) Sutton E. Griggs       

Notable Findings Concerning 100 Black Novels

[By Kenton Rambsy]

Over the next two weeks, I am providing a series of blog entries that highlight notable findings concerning 100 novels from our collection. The entries seek to provide information on some of the preliminary findings of our research concerning a large number of African American novels published between 1850 and 2010.

We highlight, for example, common qualities of protagonists and settings, the significance of Wikipedia, the importance of author awards and fellowships, and dates of publication. Ideally, our research and writing sheds new light on the holdings of the HBW novel collection and more broadly on African American publishing and literary history.

November 28: 100 Black Novels by Decade, 1850-2010
November 29: Character Traits of Novel Protagonists
November 30: The Color Purple and Wikipedia
December 1: The Evolution of Novel Covers
December 2: The Growing Importance of Authors Awarded Fellowships
December 5: 49 African American Novels on Wikipedia
December 6:The Growing Importance of Formal Education
December 7: The prominence NYC, Chicago, and California
December 8: The Significance of Novel Time Period

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Coverage of…Jesmyn Ward—National Book Award for Fiction

[Compiled By Kenton Rambsy]

Celebrating and honoring novelist Jesmyn Ward on receiving the National Book Award for Fiction, the Project on the History of Black Writing has compiled articles and videos featuring Ward.

Professor Jerry Ward on Nikky Finney's Heartwood

[By Prof. Jerry Ward]

When an excellent writer wins a prize, many readers rush to buy the book that won the prize. On the other hand, readers who are immunized against the herd instinct may take another option. They may take an older work by the prize winner off their bookshelves and read something they’d always meant to read but had not yet got around to reading.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Jesmyn Ward: 2011 National Book Award for Fiction Recipient

[By Dr. Maryemma Graham]

Jesmyn Ward was born in 1977 in DeLisle, Mississippi. Ward, a Hurricane Katrina survivor, is a southern writer, admitting to a love-hate relationship with the region she calls home. Her mother’s white employer helped to provide for her education. Racial bullying was part of her childhood experience; at one point, students threatened to lynch her.

Speaking about her second novel, Salvage the Bones, Ward told CNN: “There are three things that I draw from my life that are included in this book. One is that the book is set on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, in a small, rural black community, which is the kind of community I come from. Two, the characters experienced Hurricane Katrina. I was home for Hurricane Katrina, so I had some of my experience to draw from. It was like firsthand research. But the characters’ experience in the storm is totally different from mine. And the third thing is actually the dogfighting. When I was younger, I actually witnessed some dogfights. The other things the characters experienced throughout the book [are] purely fictional.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Song: The Invisible Character in “Song of Solomon”

[By Cindy Lyles]

An instrumental or vocal musical track typically lingers in the background as the opening credits or initial scene of a film unfolds. Music, however, is less anticipated in the opening vignette of a novel, but Toni Morrison proves that song has a place in Song of Solomon far beyond the title. At the beginning of this novel, music serves a similar purpose that it does in film to establish and maintain the emotional mood of a scene for the audience. Yet, unlike in film, music in the opening of Song of Solomon is recognized by characters and consequently highly influential, therefore making it a character in its own respect.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Coverage of…Nikky Finney—National Book Award for Poetry

[Compiled By Kenton Rambsy]
Celebrating and honoring poet Nikky Finney on receiving the National Book Award for Poetry, the Project on the History of Black Writing has compiled articles and videos featuring Finney.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Nikky Finney: 2011 National Book Award for Poetry Recipient

The Project on the History of Black Writing celebrates poet Nikky Finney on receiving the National Book Award for her 2011 collection of poetry Head Off & Split (2011).

Below, we have offered a synopsis of her latest collection of poetry (via her website), compiled a short bibliography of Finney’s work, provided a link to her acceptance speech.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Zora Neale Hurston and Metaphors of Black Womanhood in Their Eyes Were Watching God

[By Danielle Hall]

In Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), Zora Neale Hurston’s female protagonist Janie Crawford symbolizes both female empowerment and autonomy. By situating the life of character Janie Crawford as the focus of her novel, Hurston challenges perceived notions of gender in a style that provides an entrée into the communal and personal dimensions of black womanhood.

I have considered what Darlene Clark Hine describes as a “culture of dissemblance,” which is a set of behaviors and attitudes among African American women that “create the appearance of openness and disclosure” as a means of protecting “their inner lives and selves from their oppressors.” Hine also points out that this is “not a recent phenomenon,” but a recurring theme in “black women’s writing (Hine, 380).”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Suffering And Redemption in Four African-American novels

[By Goyland Williams]

In a previous post, I discussed the presence of suffering as a dominant theme in African-American novels. Given the long and brutal history of black people, it is no surprise that literary renderings attempt to capture the historical and harsh treatment of a striving people. In this post, I will highlight a few novels that capture the diverse ways in which suffering is depicted.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Paraphernalia Of Suffering: Reflections On Beloved and Their Eyes Were Watching God

[By Goyland Williams]

James Cone’s most recent book The Cross And The Lynching Tree, have provided space for me to think about the role and importance of literary depictions of suffering in African-American life. The theme of suffering, however loud or subtle, has its place in African American literature. From slave narratives to Sonia Sanchez’s poetry, literary representations of black existential concerns have been crucial both intellectually and culturally in connecting past forms of trauma with present conditions of black life.

Although several literary forms have documented the historical and present mistreatment of blacks, I will focus on African-American novels. How might these novels be useful for considering and connecting the complex and yet varied experiences of a people wrestling with what Nathanael West called the “Paraphernalia of Suffering”- social alienation, degradation, and powerlessness to alter one’s circumstances.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Break It Down: Their Eyes Were Watching God

“Break It Down” is a new HBW Literary Blog initiative that strives to offer critical interpretations of song lyrics, excerpts from novels, and poems.

This week, Blog Contributor Alysha Griffin has analyzed an excerpt from Their Eyes Were Watching God, a novel written by Zora Neale Hurston.

*Hold cursor over underlined text to display comments

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Barefoot and Laughin’: Black Women’s Humor and Male-Female Relationships

[By Alysha Griffin]

The absence of black women as academic subjects in studies on humor does not mean that black women have sat cross-legged and silently watched while others slung of verbal insults. On the contrary, black women have developed their own brand of humor that undoubtedly fits into the larger tradition of African American humor. But, what exactly makes this brand unique is a question that must be posed with the study of black women’s humor in the same way that African American humor must be interrogated. By examining a select few works of novels by African American women in our collection, we hope to expose trends in novels that may be used to characterize black women’s humor.

There appear to be many trends throughout comedic works by women in African American humor. However, one glaring theme within the genre is the use of humor to address, expose, and/or cope with conflict within male-female relationships. Humor appears to be a way that black women resist patriarchal ideologies and systems of oppression like intimate violence and subjugation in the domestic sphere. This implies that humor is a medium through which women may address some of their most immediate concerns thereby upholding the feminist principle that the private is, indeed, political.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Protest and Organized Resistance in 5 Black Novels

[By Kenton Rambsy]

Representations of organized resistance efforts have appeared in noted works by black writers for over 100 years. Similar to organizers for Occupy Wall Street, some black novelists have sought to present large numbers of people protesting unfair or unjust practices. As previously mentioned, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man offers one take one a figure becoming involved in protest movements. The following 5 novels also depict organized struggle.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Occupy Wall Street and Ralph Ellison: African American Novels and Organized Resistance

[By Kenton Rambsy]

Although many commentators have noted that protests related to Occupy Wall Street have not included large numbers of black people, it is worth noting that historically speaking social protests do have a strong presence in African American literature. Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952), not unlike the sentiments of OWS, seems to capture the growing frustration and discontent of American citizens with the great disparities between the rich and the poor.

Monday, November 7, 2011

100 Novels Project Revisted

[By Kenton Rambsy]

Although research on African American literature has flourished over the last three decades, there have been almost no quantitative studies on black novels. For instance, of the wide ranging body of novels published prior to the Harlem Renaissance, how many remain in print? What geographic region produces the greatest number of major novelists? Among one hundred select major black novels, how many were reviewed in the New York Times?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Break It Down: Strange Fruit

“Break It Down” is a new HBW Literary Blog initiative that strives to offer critical interpretations of song lyrics, excerpts from novels, and poems.

This week, Blog Contributor Goyland Williams has analyzed Strange Fruit, a song written by Abel Meeropol and performed by jazz singer Billie Holiday.

*Hold cursor over underlined text to display comments

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Theorizing Black Music, Theorizing Black Poetry

[By Goyland Williams]

Last semester, I had the privilege of taking a course entitled Theorizing Black Music, Theorizing Black Poetry. My curiosity was sparked throughout the course as significant connections were made between themes in blues lyrics and those in African-American poetry. Given the long history of the black oral tradition, the African-American musical tradition has merely been an extension of that narrative and has impacted the writing of many African-Americans.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It Was All A Dream: Liner Notes and 1990s Hip Hop Print and Media Culture

[By Danielle Hall]

“It was all a dream I used to read Word Up! magazine …” – opening line from “Juicy” by Notorious B.I.G.

In the digital age of itunes, mixtapes, and social media, the demand for going to stores to purchase music and/or music magazines is diminishing. Back in May, I was conversing with a professor about music artists and the necessity of liner notes. In the past, liner notes and music magazines have often served as the intermediary between artist and audience, but today we risk losing those elements of musical and literary history and knowledge of artist-intellectual productions.

It is not my intention to romanticize the 1990s or to suggest that current music artists lack any mode of creativity. My perspective simply evolves from the notion that sometimes technology can be a drawback or hinder our understandings of music, artistry, and lyricism as critical tenets of literary and intellectual history, culture, and scholarship.