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Outside Literary Studies

Black Criticism and the University

Publication supported by the Bevington Fund

A timely reconsideration of the history of the profession, Outside Literary Studies investigates how midcentury Black writers built a critical practice tuned to the struggle against racism and colonialism.
This striking contribution to Black literary studies examines the practices of Black writers in the mid-twentieth century to revise our understanding of the institutionalization of literary studies in America. Andy Hines uncovers a vibrant history of interpretive resistance to university-based New Criticism by Black writers of the American left. These include well-known figures such as Langston Hughes and Lorraine Hansberry as well as still underappreciated writers like Melvin B. Tolson and Doxey Wilkerson. In their critical practice, these and other Black writers levied their critique from “outside” venues: behind the closed doors of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee of Investigations, in the classroom at a Communist labor school under F.B.I. surveillance, and in a host of journals. From these vantages, Black writers not only called out the racist assumptions of the New Criticism; they also defined Black literary and interpretive practices to support Communist and other radical world-making efforts in the mid-twentieth century. Hines’s book thus offers a number of urgent contributions to literary studies: it spotlights a canon of Black literary texts that belong to an important era of anti-racist struggle, and it fills in the pre-history of the rise of Black studies and of ongoing Black dissent against the neoliberal university.

256 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2

Black Studies

Literature and Literary Criticism: American and Canadian Literature

Table of Contents

1.  New Criticism and the Object of American Democracy
2.  Melvin B. Tolson’s Belated Bomb
3.  Tactical Criticism
4.  Culture as a Powerful Weapon
Archives and Collections Consulted

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