Towards Understanding: The Study of Hughes' Poetry as the Epitome of the Expressive, Cultural, and Political Elements of African American Literature
Master of Arts (MA)
Primary Subject Area
Literature, African; Literature, American
African, American, Literature
African American Studies
Trudeau, Brianne Nicole, "Towards Understanding: The Study of Hughes' Poetry as the Epitome of the Expressive, Cultural, and Political Elements of African American Literature" (2009). Masters Theses. 67.
Unfortunately, a disconnection currently exists between the academic world and the sweet, soulful study of African American literature (AA literature). Because there is limited exposure to AA literature in academics, except for specialized courses in which it serves as the intended focus, most people do not know how to approach it as serious academic study because of its stark differences from Western literature. In sum: African American writers often do not utilize Standard English (SE), so their work is misinterpreted as non-academic in comparison to other Western works of prominence; AA literature tells a different cultural story that most of America does not identify; and the literature often serves as a political platform that authors use to inform the public of their plight. More often than not, the expressive, cultural, and political elements of AA literature are not simultaneously considered in critical analysis of the literature, which leads one to misinterpret it. Expressive, cultural, and political elements are clearly present in African American works, and their study is a vital part of understanding AA literature. Take, for instance, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who advocates using African derived interpretive tools to dissect AA literature and, consequently, shifts the focus to the African American expressive, cultural, and political aspects. And Terry Eagleton, a renowned literary critic, also argues in After Theory that the political nature or cultural elements of a work cannot be separated from it (23). Nor can the language people use be separated form the literature they produce. John and Russell Rickford, authors of Spoken Soul, note that some people wrongly assume that "[African American Language (AAL)] has no dictionary, no textbooks, no grammar, no rules. It is rebellious and outside rule-based language" (91). Suggestively, then, one not only has to study the African American expression and language to better understand the literature, but he also has to accept the language as valid as well. But because the expressive elements are at variance from mainstream literature, mainstream literary critics have a difficult time considering AA literature candidates for serious linguistic study.