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Article

Emad Abdul-Latif

Sudanese poet, critic, and academician, was born in Ad Damer on 1 January 1944, after which he moved across Sudan with his family. His father was Abdul-Hayy Mahmoud, an architect who studied country planning in Britain. His mother, Aziza Ismaeel Fawzy, was a daughter of an architect as well. Abdul-Hayy married Dr. Aisha Moussa and had four children. He graduated from Khartoum University and obtained his PhD in comparative literature from Oxford University. He published many important volumes of poetry and produced many books and critical essays in both Arabic and English. In the 1970s he held some cultural and academic posts. For his last nine years, a series of ailments caused his health to decline and his linguistic memory to die until he was completely paralyzed. After a long struggle with illness, he died on 23 August 1989 in Sopa University Hospital.

Abdul Hayy was among those ...

Article

Lidwien Kapteijns

Somali novelist, short story writer, critic, journalist, and founder of cultural and literary journals and institutions, was born in Jarriiban, Mudug region, Somalia, in 1952. His name is also given as Mohamed Dahir Afrah and Maxamed Daahir Afrax. He graduated from high school in Mogadishu in 1973. When the Siad Barre government introduced the first official orthography for the Somali language in 1972, Afrax founded the first bilingual Somali-Arabic monthly magazine using the new script, Codka Jubba (“The Voice of Jubba,” 1972–1975). In 1976, Afrax’s story “Guur-ku-sheeg” (“Pseudo-marriage”) was serialized in the Somali national newspaper Xiddigta Oktoobar (“The October Star”), laying the basis for a lasting literary tradition of serialized fiction.

In this same serialized form he also first published his popular novel Maanafaay, the story of the girl Maanafaay, who, in the Mogadishu of the 1970s, strives to be modern and modest ...

Article

Michael Awkward

In an October 1985Pennsylvania Gazette profile, Houston A. Baker, Jr., speaks of his intellectual journey from graduate studies in late-Victorian literature to the then relatively uncharted field of African American literature as “a great awakening and a conversion experience rolled into one.” Baker's blues journey home has resulted in the field's richest, most consistently probing body of work, and has established him as one of a handful of preeminent scholars of American literature to have emerged in the wake of the civil rights movement struggles of the 1960s.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Baker matriculated at Howard University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and then earned a PhD in English at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1968. After brief stints at Yale University, the site of his conversion, and the University of Virginia, Baker moved to the University of Pennsylvania in 1974 ...

Article

Hédi Abdel-Jaouad

Tunisian poet, critic, and essayist, was born in Majel Bel Abbès, near Kassérine, Tunisia, where his father was employed with the railway system. His family originates from Gabes, in southeast Tunisia. Bekri’s mother died when he was ten years old, which affected both his personal and literary journeys. He attended the Lycée of Sfax, where he was active in various literary and artistic circles. At the age of eighteen he published his first poems, in the school’s literary journal. He then attended the University of Tunis, where he majored in French literature. During the turbulent years following May 1967, the university was a hotbed of political activism. Bekri was arrested for his political opinions in 1972 and was sentenced and jailed in 1975. Upon his release in 1976 he left for France and has since resided in Paris where he was granted political asylum Bekri completed a ...

Article

Evan Mwangi

Caribbean poet, historian, dramatist, and cultural theorist, was born Lawson Edward Brathwaite to Hilton Brathwaite, a warehouse clerk, and Beryl Gill on 11 May 1930 in Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados. He was later given the name “Kamau,” a common name in central Kenya, by the writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s mother, when Brathwaite visited Kenya as a guest of the University of Nairobi in the 1970s. For his early education, Braithwaite attended the Harrison College, an elite school in Barbados, beginning in 1945. He started writing poetry at an early age, publishing some of it in the school magazine, The Harrisonian, which he cofounded, and later in the audacious magazine Bim, edited by Frank Collymore, an eminent man of letters in the British Caribbean. Some of this early poetry was later collected in Brathwaite’s Other Exiles (1975).

In 1949 Brathwaite won the Barbados Scholarship to attend ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Many critics in the English-speaking Caribbean consider Edward Kamau Brathwaite the most important West Indian poet. Although Brathwaite is also a scholar and educator, he is best known for his poetry, which makes use of West Indian dialect and asks questions about roots and inheritance, matters of concern to Africans across the diaspora. (As Brathwaite puts it in one well-known line, “where is the nigger's home?”) Ghanaian author Kofi Awoonor has called Brathwaite “a poet of the total African consciousness.”

Brathwaite was born Lawson Edward Brathwaite in Bridgetown, Barbados, in 1930. He attended Harrison College, where he published his earliest work in the school paper that he and several friends cofounded. In 1949 Brathwaite won the prestigious Barbados Island Scholarship to Cambridge University in England, where he received a B.A. degree in history in 1953 and a certificate in education in 1955.

While at Cambridge Brathwaite published ...

Article

Elaine Savory

Kamau Brathwaite, born Edward Lawson in Barbados in 1930, has had a very distinguished career as a poet, historian, and cultural theorist. His historical work contributed greatly to the understanding of creolization as a process and his term “nation language” has been enormously important in the recognition of the wide range of Creole languages in the Caribbean. But he has also been a critical intellectual and creative force in bringing subordinated African cultural elements to the fore in Caribbean culture. His own adoption of an African name is a powerful symbol of his conscious affiliation with Africa.

Although the majority of the population of Barbados is of African descent African thought and culture were only present in subordinated cultural practices after the systematic erasure of ancestral memories of African slaves by the plantation system and British colonial education Educated at Cambridge in history Brathwaite then worked in the ...

Article

Keith Clark

A distinguished writer and teacher, Joanne M. Braxton has published important poetry and criticism while maintaining the significance of historical and communal ties.

Joanne Margaret Braxton was born in Lakeland, Maryland, on 25 May 1950 to Mary Ellen Weems Braxton and Harry McHenry Braxton, Sr. The second of four children, she graduated from Northwestern Senior High School in Hyattsville, Maryland. Braxton found her poetic voice as an undergraduate at Sarah Lawrence College; after graduating, she entered Yale University, where she earned her PhD in American Studies in 1984. Braxton wrote her dissertation on black women's autobiography under the tutelage of scholars Charles Davis and John Blassingame.

Braxton has enjoyed a fruitful publishing career. Sometimes I Think of Maryland (1977), a volume of poetry, reflects the centrality of folkloric and familial traditions; Gwendolyn Brooks hailed it for its economy courage and genuine expression of youthful energy ...

Article

Wayne Dawkins

literary critic. Anatole Broyard was born in New Orleans, the son of Paul Broyard, a carpenter, and Edna Miller. Young Anatole was the second of three children. His older sister, Lorraine, was fair complexioned and his younger sister, Shirley, was brown complexioned. Anatole was pale to olive skinned as a boy. This color distinction is important, because that issue defined the future writer's life.

Anatole's family moved to Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant in the 1920s. Anatole's father arrived in town as a master carpenter, but he learned that the carpenters’ union barred applicants of color. Paul Broyard decided to identify himself as white in order to work. The rest of the family did not overtly pass for white; they muted their racial identity, and that worked in multiethnic Brooklyn.

Young Anatole meanwhile picked up the nickname “Buddy,” according to the historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. In ...

Article

Paul Breslin

Martinican poet, playwright, essayist, and political leader, was born on 26 June 1913, in Basse Pointe, Martinique. His parents, Fernand and Eléonore Césaire, were of modest means but devoted to their six children’s education. In 1924, Césaire entered the Lycée Schoelcher in Martinique’s capital, Fort-de-France. In 1931 he went to France to study at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, then, in 1935, at l’École Normale Supérieure. In Paris, Césaire developed friendships with other young black intellectuals and writers, most notably the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor and Léon Damas (1912–1978), a French Guianese who had been his schoolmate at the Lycée Schoelcher. In 1937, he met and married a fellow Martinican student and poet, Suzanne Roussi (1915–1966). The marriage produced six children, one of whom, Ina Césaire (1942– ), became a prominent writer as well.

Césaire and his circle sought a definition of black identity They were influenced by the ...

Article

Richard Watts

Born in Basse-Pointe, Martinique, the second of six children in a family of relatively modest means, Aimé Césaire grew up with a strong appreciation for French culture. While most young Martinicans heard their bedtime stories in Creole, Césaire’s father would read his son French poems by Victor Hugo, which may explain in part Césaire’s bias against the Creole language. The family moved to Fort-de-France when Césaire was twelve years old. There Aimé enrolled at the Lycée Schoelcher and met Léon-Gontran Damas, a student from French Guiana. Césaire’s exceptional work there led to a scholarship to finish his secondary studies in Paris, France, at the prestigious Lycée Louis-le-Grand. In Paris he met the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor, a man whose literary and political itinerary would mirror Césaire’s.

Césaire enrolled at the école Normale Supérieure in 1931 and began participating in the vibrant black student life of 1930s Paris Through ...

Article

Ross Michael Nedervelt

was born in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, to Alphonso Christian, a judge, and his wife, Ruth. She was raised in an unconventional family, as her parents held academic learning in high esteem. Her father believed that all six of his children should receive an equal education, regardless of the patriarchal social norms discouraging women from further education. Encouraged by her father, she became an accomplished student and avid reader. Yet, as she read through numerous books, she became quite concerned by the absence of Caribbean and African American women within the stories. At the age of 15, she traveled to the United States for the first time. She enrolled in Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 1963 Her parents pressed her to go on to medical school and become a doctor but Christian decided to pursue her emerging passion for literature and ...

Article

James Smethurst

Samuel R. Delany's early work played a major role in the development of a more literary “new wave” in science fiction during the 1960s. The science fiction genre was known previously more for its ideas rather than for its stylistic innovation. Delany's first novels were heavily influenced by the formal experimentation of modernist and postmodernist writers such as James Joyce, Ralph Ellison, and Djuna Barnes as well as by the work of leading science fiction writers such as Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon.

Delany s writing was concerned with technology and the development of artistic and outlaw subcultures on the margins of society anticipating the later cyberpunk trend in video film fiction and graphic art Perhaps influenced by being one of very few African American science fiction writers of his generation and by his open homosexuality although he also had significant heterosexual relationships Delany from the beginning ...

Article

Sandra Y. Govan

and winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards for science fiction, the Pilgrim Award for excellence in science fiction criticism (1985), and the Bill Whitehead Memorial Award for Lifetime Excellence in Gay and Lesbian Literature (1993). Delany has written criticism using the aliases K. Leslie Steiner and S. L. Kermit.

Samuel R. Delany was the first highly visible and extraordinarily successful African American author to adopt the “marginal” subgenre of science fiction and make it his special province, both as a creator and a critic. A Harlem native, “Chip” Delany was the only son of Samuel R. Delany, Sr., and Margaret Carey Boyd Delany owners of Levy and Delany a Harlem funeral parlor His background provided the gifted young Delany with rich and varied experiences despite strained relations with his father problems at school largely caused by an undiagnosed dyslexia various experiments with ...

Article

John Lang

Born in Connecticut, Melvin Dixon earned his BA at Wesleyan University (1971) and his MA and PhD at Brown University (1973, 1975). His first book, Change of Territory (1983), a collection of free-verse poems, reflects his interest in his family's southern roots and his experiences—including a visit to Africa—while he was living in Paris in the mid-1970s. For Dixon, a change of territory affords new perspectives and new or enlarged identities, themes mirrored in the book's four-part structure. The opening poem, “Hungry Travel,” focuses on his parents’ departure for Connecticut from North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains. Other poems expand the poet's concept of kin to include literary influences such as Jean Toomer, Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, and Robert Hayden The long poem Bobo Baoulé which comprises part 3 emphasizes racial ancestry as it recounts the ...

Article

Richard A. Long

Born in Atlanta but reared in Detroit where he graduated from Wayne State University, Hoyt Fuller embarked on a career in journalism and editing. He held positions with the Michigan Chronicle, the Detroit Tribune, and Collier's Encyclopedia, among others. Increasingly frustrated by American racism, he went abroad in 1957, living in France and in Spain; later, attracted by the anticolonial stance of Sekou Toure of Guinea, he travelled in Africa, an experience evoked in his only book, a collection of essays, Return to Africa (1971). Fuller returned to the United States in 1960.

Fuller had worked briefly as an associate editor at the monthly Ebony in 1954 before going abroad, and when Ebony publisher John Johnson decided to revive the periodical Negro Digest in 1961 he offered Fuller the job of editing it Fuller accepted the position but rejected the digest format ...

Article

James A. Miller

Fuller, Hoyt William (10 September 1927–11 May 1981), editor and literary critic, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Thomas Fuller and Lillie Beatrice Ellafair Thomas. A member of the African-American middle class, Fuller was raised in Detroit, Michigan, and came of age against the backdrop of the violent race riots in that city in 1943.

Fuller attended Wayne State University in Detroit, where he received his B.A. in 1950. As a student, he was deeply influenced by Fred Hart Williams, a historian who specialized in the experiences of blacks in the Michigan-Ontario area and who founded what is now known as the Hackley Memorial Collection of Black Arts at the Detroit Public Library. Williams introduced Fuller to regional black history and to African history, beginning Fuller’s deep and abiding commitment to African affairs.

Fuller worked as a reporter for the Detroit Tribune from 1949 ...

Article

Simon Gikandi

Henry Louis Gates Jr. has been the dominant figure in the study of African American literature and culture since the 1980s He has had a long and profound interest in Africa its history culture and institutions Through his writings documentaries and electronic publications he has been central in shaping debates about the continent in the American academy and public culture A prolific writer social commentator and builder of institutions Gates has influenced a range of debates on African and African American life from the meaning of blackness in the cultures of slavery the nature and form of the canon of black letters in the modern period and the relationship between the continent and its diaspora in Europe and the Americas Gates has done more than any other critic in the post civil rights era to bridge the gap between forms of knowledge that are produced in elite and exclusive ...

Article

Richard Newman

As a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine and a frequent public speaker, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., emerged as a national spokesperson on racial issues in the mid-1990s. He attempted to refocus the nation's public policy debate by emphasizing that both the black middle class and the black underclass had grown considerably since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. As he stated on “The Two Nations of Black America,” the program he wrote and hosted for Frontline (WGBH-TV, 1998), “The class divide within our community is black America's most urgent social problem.”

Gates was born in Keyser, West Virginia, the son of Pauline Coleman and Henry Louis Gates, Sr. He grew up in Piedmont a small town of about 2 000 people 10 percent of whom were black Gates s father worked as a laborer in the local paper mill and as a ...

Article

Kenneth W. Warren

Arguably the most influential black literary scholar of the 1980s, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who earned his PhD at Cambridge University, has been the recipient of a MacArthur Prize Fellowship and the American Book Award. In his early textual scholarship, Gates achieved prominence by establishing Harriet E. Wilson's Our Nig, or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black (1859) as the first novel published in the United States by an African American. At the same time, Gates, along with such other scholars as Robert Stepto and Dexter Fisher, who together coedited Afro-American Literature: The Reconstruction of Instruction (1979), were laying the groundwork for a critical approach to African American literature that sought to focus on its literariness, breaking with, as Gates argued, the social realist preoccupation of critics of previous generations.

Central to Gates s establishment of this intended break was first ...