chapter  3
Change and Cultural Representation in African American Literary Criticism
Pages 30

Chapter two discussed the emergence of Afrikanity in the cultural sphere of African Americans’ lives as a manifestation of the desire to counteract Western hegemonic cultural praxis. Gates counsels critics of African American literature to be alert to the dangers of creating a theoretical response to Western criticism that is merely another Western theory. Taking Asante’s Afrocentric cues and Gates’ warning of intellectual bondage seriously, this chapter will focus on developing a critical theory that re-centers what is African in African American literary expressions. Recognizing that any critical approach is bounded by its linguistic heritage, this research project cannot escape the fact of its Western influences. Yet, the thematic content of African Americans’ literature, like other cultural products (folklore, music, and religion) reflects a dual or multiple heritage, one that includes Africa. The impetus of this project is to stake out new ground and begin exploration of areas only indirectly addressed by literary critics, if any attention is devoted to these concerns. Since this enterprise desires to demonstrate a developmental process or stage in Black literature, it will be useful to analyze other theories that suggest developmental processes in either the literature or the criticism. Therefore, this chapter will attempt to analyze other developmental approaches to critical historiography. Then, vernacular theories will be discussed to assess what they say about African sur-vivals in the literature. Other areas of contemporary criticism, especially Black feminist criticism, may provide some useful perspectives or pointers as this project sketches the outlines of Black or “Afrikan” poetics.