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5. Race: Tradition and Archive in the Harlem Renaissance

Jeremy Braddock

Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780470658734.2013.00006.x


Writing in Modernism and Theory , Susan Stanford Friedman (2009) reminds the reader that “[t]he hegemony of French ‘high theory’ in the United States follows , not precedes, the radical critique of prevailing notions of the literary and the canon, and of the methodologies and institutions of literary studies” (239). Demurring from the volume's introduction, Friedman's point is to stress the multiple determinants that informed the “new modernist studies” of the mid-1990s, emphasizing in particular the identitarian movements that authored the radical critique—feminism, queer studies, and race studies—and preceded high theory's institutional dominance in the 1980s. Friedman's genealogy is a helpful and salutary complication of the new modernist studies' origins. But if we were to take African American studies as the primary field of inquiry among three terms—modernism, theory, and race studies—the genealogy would become intriguingly, and tellingly, more involuted. Although African American studies began to achieve institutional recognition somewhat before the period of high theory's influence, the field was substantially developed and transformed during the time of theory's hegemony, and meaningfully shaped by it. One of the period's key documents is Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s “ Race ,” Writing, and Difference from 1986 (an edited collection recently revisited in the pages of ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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