Monday, January 25, 2010

Exploring Race & Literature

This is not a recent book but it sounds like a fascinating read to add to list:
Neither Black nor White yet Both: Thematic Explorations of Interracial Literature by Werner Sollors

Why can a “white” woman give birth to a “black” baby, while a “black” woman can never give birth to a “white” baby in the United States? What makes racial “passing” so different from social mobility? Why are interracial and incestuous relations often confused or conflated in literature, making “miscegenation” appear as if it were incest? When did the myth that one can tell a person’s race by the moon on their fingernails originate? How did blackness get associated with “the curse of Ham” when the Biblical text makes no reference to skin color at all? Werner Sollors examines these questions and others in Neither Black Nor White Yet Both, a new and exhaustively researched exploration of “interracial literature.” In the past, interracial texts have been read more for a black-white contrast of “either-or” than for an interracial realm of “neither, nor, both, and in-between.” Intermarriage prohibitions have been legislated throughout the modern period and were still in the law books in the 1980s. Stories of black-white sexual and family relations have thus run against powerful social taboos. Yet much interracial literature has been written, and this book suggests its pervasiveness and offers new comparative and historical contexts for understanding it. Via www.mixedracestudies.org

The more recently published A New Literary History of America (Harvard University Press Reference Library) by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors looks very interesting as well:


From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The full national-literary character of the United States is on display in this mighty history and reference work for our time. Written by a distinguished team, under the sure-handed editorship of musicologist and historian Marcus and Sollors, Harvard professor of English and African-American studies, this volume begins with America's first appearance on a map and concludes with the election of President Obama. Among the more than 200 contributors are Bharati Mukherjee (on The Scarlet Letter), Camille Paglia (on Tennessee Williams) and Ishmael Reed (on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn).

The book includes entries on not strictly literary themes: the first U.S. natural history collection of painter Charles Willson Peale; the invention of the blues; and the art of Grant Wood. This balancing act is even less sure-footed as we enter present time with entries on Some Like It Hot and the National Football League. Although it is impossible to include every important author in one volume, Sylvia Plath barely gets a nod as does James Merrill. Such are the blemishes on exquisite skin. Overall, this is an astounding achievement in multiculturalism and American studies, which in the age of Google and the Internet lights the way toward serious interpretive reference publishing. 27 illus. 

Review

In snapshots of a few thousand words each, the entries in A New Literary History put on display the exploring, tinkering and risk-taking that have contributed to the invention of America...A New Literary History of America gives us what amounts to a fractal geometry of American culture. You can focus on any one spot and get a sense of the whole or pull back and watch the larger patterns appear. What you see isn't the past so much as the present.
--Wes Davis, Wall Street Journal

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous8:08 PM

    The information here is great. I will invite my friends here.

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  2. That sounds like a very interesting book. I'd never heard of it. You make me want to read it.

    ReplyDelete

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