Contemporary American Fiction

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bell hooks

“Postmodern Blackness,” (1990)

From her earliest writing, in particular Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism (1981), bell hooks has focused on the particularities of the African-American experience in relation to broader liberatory movements and practices.  In this article, she describes the tenuous and contested relationship between African-Americans and postmodernism.  According to hooks, postmodernism is bold to talk about “otherness,” and to celebrate the “other,” but less bold in describing or investigating the day-to-day lived experience of such “otherness.”

What is hooks’ critique of postmodernism?

Why does hooks think that the postmodern ciritque of essentialism might be experienced differently by African-Americans?

How does hooks describe the history of the black power movement?  Why is it critical to her understanding of postmodernism?

What does she say about “rap”?

How does she use her experience as an example?

Much of hooks’ criticism targets academics and the hypocrisy she perceives in their championing of difference and otherness even as they continue to speak in, and require, a language of mastery.  We just read Don Delillo’s White Noise, whose main character is an academic.  Consider hooks’ characterization of academe.  Is Jack Gladney symptomatic of the problem hooks describes?  Does he care?

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