Full Text

African American Literature, Criticism and Theory


Subject Imperial, Colonial, and Postcolonial History » Postcolonial History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444334982.2016.x


African American literature begins with a profound meditation on the meaning of slavery and freedom, as early writers create new narrative forms to seek agency, subjectivity, and community within the dehumanizing conditions of forced migration and enslavement. In the modern era, writers turn to realist protest fiction, lyrical poetry, and hard-hitting theater to develop a cultural and racial consciousness that combats continuing segregation and disenfranchisement. In the contemporary moment, writers continue to develop innovative forms to complicate existing notions of race and representation through debates over politics and aesthetics, nation and diaspora, and gender and sexuality. African American literature is characterized by a syncretic intermingling of oral and written modes, performance and textuality, African and European traditions. Because of numerous prohibitions against reading and writing during the slavery era, newly arrived Africans who spoke many different languages developed systems of communication that focused on sound, the voice, the body, and the drum. Music and vernacular culture became springboards for literary innovation, and African American literature has always incorporated oral modes like spirituals, sermons, folktales, blues, jazz, and, more recently, rap and hip-hop. The question of the origins of African American literature remains contested, since ... log in or subscribe to read full text

Log In

You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online

If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here:


     Forgotten your password?

Find out how to subscribe.

Your library does not have access to this title. Please contact your librarian to arrange access.

[ access key 0 : accessibility information including access key list ] [ access key 1 : home page ] [ access key 2 : skip navigation ] [ access key 6 : help ] [ access key 9 : contact us ] [ access key 0 : accessibility statement ]

Blackwell Publishing Home Page

Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Literature <p> Click on the below link to get an email reminder of your password <br> <a href="http://subscriberservices.blackwellreference.com/password_reminder.html">Password Reminder</a></p> ® is a Blackwell Publishing Inc. registered trademark
Technology partner: Semantico Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing and its licensors hold the copyright in all material held in Blackwell Reference Online. No material may be resold or published elsewhere without Blackwell Publishing's written consent, save as authorised by a licence with Blackwell Publishing or to the extent required by the applicable law.

Back to Top