The University of Wisconsin Press

American Literature / African American Studies


Afro-American Poetics
Revisions of Harlem and the Black Aesthetic
Houston A. Baker Jr.

"A stunning critical achievement."
—Henry Louis Gates Jr.

When Houston A. Baker Jr. one of America's foremost literary critics, first published Afro-American Poetics in 1988, it was hailed as a major revisionist history of both African American culture and criticism. Now available in paperback, this ambitious and enlightening book juxtaposes two of the most fertile periods of African American culture, the 1920s and the 1960s; it includes essays on Jean Toomer, Countee Cullen, Amiri Baraka, Larry Neal, and Hoyt Fuller. This is also Baker's most personal book, an intellectual autobiography tracing his own beginnings as a scholar of Victorian literature, his "second birth" as he began teaching African American literature, and his visions and revisions of a black aesthetic.

• Winner of the 1989 College Language Association Award

From reviews of the hardcover edition:

"Baker explores in fine and splendid detail the dialectic between self and other, rhetoric and representation, "high" theory and the Black vernacular, to chart the evolution of Afro-American literary criticism since 1970."—Henry Louis Gates Jr. Harvard University

"Baker's is a fascinating portrait of the literary critic as blues artist, reconstructing the products of two amazingly fruitful decades of engagement with Afro-American expressive culture in illuminating autobiographical examinations of his own—and indeed, Afro-American criticism's—momentous changes over that period of time."—Michael Awkward, University of Michigan

"Readers who do not know much about black American literature would learn a great deal from Afro-American Poetics; those who do would be further enlightened." —Peter Nazareth, World Literature Today

"For this student of black literature, the final impact of Afro-American Poetics is overwhelming. We now have the beginnings of a superstructure upon which to gauge individual pieces of black literature."—Eugene Kraft, Callaloo

Houston A. Baker Jr. is professor of English, Albert M. Greenfield Professor of Human Relations, and director of the Center for the Study of Black Literature and Culture at the University of Pennsylvania. His many books of criticism include Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance and Blues, Ideology and Afro-American Literature, and he has published three collections of poems. He is also the editor of many books, including Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.

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Baker's book is blue-grey with a black and white illustration of people on a subway.

August 1988
212 pp.   6 x 9   
6 b/w photos  
ISBN-10: 0-299-11500-3 
ISBN-13: 978-0-299-11500-5  
Cloth $21.95 s

ISBN-10: 0-299-11504-6  
ISBN-13: 978-0-299-11504-3
Paper $14.95 t

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Updated August 24, 2010

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