In this lecture, Professor Paul Fry examines trends in African-American criticism through the lens of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Toni Morrison. A brief history of African-American literature and criticism is undertaken, and the relationship of both to feminist theory is explicated. The problems in cultural and identity studies of essentialism, “the identity queue,” expropriation, and biology are surveyed, with particular attention paid to the work of Michael Cooke and Morrison’s reading of Huckleberry Finn. At the lecture’s conclusion, the tense relationship between African-American studies and New Critical assumptions are explored with reference to Robert Penn Warren’s poem, “Pondy Woods.”
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