Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Poetic Journey

[By Prof. Jerry Ward]

Once in the 1970s when I was driving E. Ethelbert Miller and a lady whose work got some attention in the early twentieth century to some event, the lady snidely remarked that Margaret Walker was a one-poem poet.  A young man must respect his elders.  I winced in silence.  Literary history does reward snobbishness.  The lady is as seldom mentioned for her plays and poetry as her once-famous father is mentioned for his contributions to African American intellectual history.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Are We Losing Our Humanity, Part 2.2

[By Prof. Jerry Ward]

This blog serves notice that many of my friends and I are not losing our humanity.  We are transforming our humanity.  We are using “new and improved” humanity to produce more than toothless civic discourses and critiques in the orbit of the merely academic. Uses of language that divorce themselves from the actuality of physical, spiritual and psychological suffering among the seven billion people on Earth get no respect from us. We recognize that language is by nature participatory in combat and contact zones. Treating acts of language as if they were absolutely metaphors only intensifies the reality of suffering.  It does not acknowledge the necessity for scholarly activism. It creates more wretchedness.  Truth be told, cultural work or knowledge work can not eradicate terrorism or wretchedness.  This fact is not a sufficient reason for cloaking the hidden dimensions, betrayals, and hypocrisies of so-called civic discourse.  We have read the dying words of Richard Wright’s Cross Damon and we do know what they mean.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Are We Losing Our Humanity?, Part 2.1

[By Prof. Jerry Ward]

Dr. Neal Lester, Foundation Professor of English and Director, Project Humanities, at Arizona State University, will provide the opening remarks for the September 7 forum.  Lester began Project Humanities as a university initiative in 2010, and I suspect he shares my belief that maintaining a divide between the hard sciences and the humanities is bogus.  Whether he shares my belief that divisions among the soft or human sciences, matters of law, and the actuality of evil are bogus may be revealed in his remarks.  It is unlikely his remarks will cast light on my reasons for being deeply angered by the wording of the question which locates the third discussion topic:

Is there room for the humanity of all seven billion people to be recognized, or is it inevitable that many will remain (or become) commodities? 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Are We Losing Our Humanity?: Part 1

[By Prof. Jerry Ward]

This is an announcement.  Time is not accidental.  Dates are.  It is accidental that November 5, 2012 is the deadline for submissions to PMLA on the general topic of tragedy.  It is accidental that on November 6, 2012 millions of American citizens will participate in the ritual of electing a president.  It is  accidental that in the May 2012 issue of PMLA one finds Rob Nixon’s thoughtful article “Neo-liberalism, Genre, and ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’ “ (593-599) and Rudolph Fisher’s missing story “The Shadow of White,” nicely authenticated by Molly Anne Rothenberg’ s remarks on how “Dr. Fisher offers his audience a therapeutics of the imagination”(618).  It is accidental that Rosemary Feal, Executive Director of the Modern Language Association, will moderate the forum “Are We Losing Our Humanity?” at the National Press Club on September 7, 2012.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Distance between Toni Morrison and Colson Whitehead

[By Howard Rambsy II]

In a recent blog entry, literary critic Jerry Ward observed that Colson Whitehead’s Apex Hides the Hurt is “a comic book.” Further, “One senses the ghost of Henry James in the book’s machinery,” notes Ward, “although its effect is pure George Bernard Shaw.” Yes, humor and satire are on display in Apex, and really all of Whitehead’s works.

On a larger level, it’s worth noting that Whitehead represents one side of a notable yet understated divide or shift in African American literary fiction. On one side, we have Whitehead, one of our most prominent humorous literary artists. On the other side, we have Toni Morrison, by far, our most critically acclaimed serious literary artist. The distance between the two writers and what it means for African American literature might deserve more attention.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

To Hide And Hide Not

[By Jerry Ward]

Colson Whitehead’s Apex Hides the Hurt (2006) is a comic book.  The writer of comedy, Gilbert Highet said with some authority in The Anatomy of Satire (1962), “likes people, not in spite of their peculiarities, but because of them” (155).  Whitehead likes people.

In Apex Hides the Hurt, he depicts what is ludicrous about how people do or do not do things with words.  Indeed, his novel is proper and slightly British.  One senses the ghost of Henry James in the book’s machinery although its effect is pure George Bernard Shaw.  After all, the novel is primarily about the deception of words.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Satanic Prostitutes/Poetry/Demonic Pimps

[By Jerry Ward]

Today would have been James Baldwin’s 88th birthday, and we should celebrate the fact with sweetness and light and the gentle moral irony that informed Baldwin’s writings.   I am feeling anything but genteel today.  My thoughts are informed by David Walker rather than Baldwin, by indignation rather than civility.