• Lateral Reading Lyric Testimony; or, The Difficult Miracle of Black Poetry in the Americas

    Nicholas T Rinehart (see profile)
    CLCS Hemispheric American, LLC African American Forum, LLC Literatures of the United States in Languages Other Than English, TC Translation Studies, TM Literary Criticism
    Caribbean literature, Poetry, Translating and interpreting, Multilingualism
    Item Type:
    Poetry of the African diaspora, Black print culture, lyric, canon, Translation, Black diaspora, Black literature
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    Canon, tradition, and origin anchor developmental accounts of Black literary history, describing the forward movement from a singular beginning in terms of birth, maturation, and inheritance. This model delimits a specialized field of study, but also obscures texts, practices, and archives that do not cohere with it. In the study of slave testimony, the canonization of Anglo-American poets like Phillis Wheatley and Jupiter Hammon has eclipsed the reception and translation of other enslaved poets across the Americas. This essay proposes a method of lateral reading to remedy this lopsided historiography. First, it tracks how conceptions of "American Negro Poetry" shifted throughout the twentieth century, from initially describing a multilingual, hemispheric network of Black writers to ultimately signifying an Anglophone, nationally bounded African American canon. Second, it considers the temporalities of lyric, which move outward rather than forward in time, to suggest how we might read enslaved poets without expecting that their works reflect the "experience" of enslavement. And third, it demonstrates how a cohort of enslaved Afro-Cuban poets together established and elaborated a "writing community" through lyric form, overlapping social networks, and shared participation in an urban periodical culture. Taken together, these insights enable us to glimpse a wider, hemispheric corpus of enslaved poetics in the Americas.
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    2 years ago
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