Location: Bowdoin / Africana Studies / Establishing the Past: Problems in 19th Century African American Literary Studies / Schedule

Africana Studies


Friday April 9

Nixon Lounge, Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, 3rd Floor:

9:30 – opening Remarks, Tess Chakkalakal, Asst. Professor, Africana Studies


Representing opposing sides on the question of African American literature, Professors John Ernest and Kenneth Warren will engage one another on the position of African American literature within contemporary American culture.

It is important, I think, to acknowledge the obvious fact that we live in a culture that neither requires nor encourages those who are “white” to think seriously about race. Too often, indeed, white Americans are not even in a position to engage others in a reasoned and informed dialogue or debate about the issues of the day or about the realities of the past, and so they either fall back on arguments drawn from their chosen race representative or they fall back on the prepackaged race discourse that stands in for serious conversation in the public forum--predictable complaints about Affirmative Action, platitudes about diversity, and the like. In conversations about most other subjects, one might be embarrassed about having so little to offer, but in conversations about race one can be grandly unaware of what more there might be to bring to the subject. – John Ernest, Chaotic Justice

Please follow link Rethinking African American Literary History - Chapter One - Representing Chaos and Reading Race
to read complete text.

African American literature took shape in the context of this challenge to the enforcement and justification of racial subordination and exploitation represented by Jim Crow. Accordingly, it will be my argument here that with the legal demise of Jim Crow the coherence of African American literature has been correspondingly, if sometimes imperceptibly, eroded as well. – Kenneth Warren, What Was African American Literature

Please follow link “What Was African American Literature?” (PDF) to read complete text.

Chaotic Justice Passing and the Rise of the African American Novel (U of Illinois P, 2001)


Maria Giulia Fabi, “De-segregating the Future: African American Speculative Fiction to the Harlem Renaissance”

Chapter 2 of Professor Fabi’s Passing and the Rise of the African American Novel provides an introduction to some of the critical concerns that are central to her current book project on African American speculative fiction to the Harlem Renaissance. Please follow link Passing and the Rise of the African American Novel (PDF) to read complete text.

John Gruesser Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Black Anti-Imperialism

The movement away from US-centered approaches to America enables scholars to cross disciplinary boundaries and delineate the global forces operating in literary texts. Specifically, as Caroline Levander and Robert Levine put it in special issue of this journal, hemispheric considerations of American literature “excavat[e] the intricate and complex politics, histories, and discourses of spatial encounter that have been generally obscured in US nation-based inquiries” (399). The work of Ifeoma Nwankwo, Keith Cartwright, Martyn Bone, and others has recently demonstrated that such a critical methodology is especially appropriate for African-American literature. This is particularly the case in connection with those texts published in the second half of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century when the country aggressively pursued an imperialist agenda and acquired an overseas empire. John Gruesser, “The Empire at Home and the Empire Abroad”

Please go to The Empire at Home and the Empire Abroad by John Gruesser (PDF) to read complete text.  

Hanna Wallinger, African American Writing at the Turn of the Century and Intertextuality

These writers committed themselves to race literature, which is literature with a social and political function, its main goal being to record the past and offer a vision of the future. It was women’s literature with a pronounced focus on racial issues, and it was race literature with a decidedly feminist point of view. They had not only to fight the general neglect of the female voice but also to refute the racist representations of black women in American culture.

Please go to “Shrinking at No Lofty Theme”: The Race Literature of Victoria Earle Matthews, Gertrude Mossell, and Katherine Tillman (PDF) to read complete text.

Pauline E. Hopkins: A Literary Biography (University of Georgia Press, 2005) Hanna Crafts Curse of th Caste

Q & A between speakers and members of the audience moderated by Professor Tess Chakkalakal

RECEPTION – Pierce Lounge, 2nd Floor, Hawthorne-Longfellow Library