The More Things Stay the Same: African American Literature and the Politics of Responsibility

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Abstract

Within the African American literary tradition, several writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have expressed concerns about the methods through which their work is categorized and/or read as part of the American literary canon. This essay traces the discussions and debates between preeminent writers and “leaders” within the African American community at-large who have defined the practice of creative expression in diverse ways. By assessing the relationship between art and politics, the essay examines if the desire to create work that is inexcusably “political” is in direct opposition to intellectual and creative activity, or if both ideological frameworks can indeed exist simultaneously.

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