american literature rant

zora neale hurston

when i was in undergrad, i created an interdiciplinary major in the american culture program to be able to study literature and history from peoples of color without confining myself to latin american or africana studies. today, as i sat in the barnes & nobles cafe at 53rd & lexington, i was reminded of why that was so important to me.

above the counters in the cafe, there is an installation of artwork depicting various authors of the literary canon in conversation over coffee in the Other World barnes & nobles.  the painting itself could make for good conversation – speculating on how a conversation between dickinson, hemingway, and orwell would have gone in a mega-chain bookstore in 2006. anyhow, as i looked around at all of the other authors i was struck with disgust at the audacity of those who would exclude non-whites from the literary canon. there was no langston hughes, zora neale hurston, eusebio chacon, josephina niggli, physllis wheatley or sign of any person whose recent ancestors descended from any place other than europe.


eusebio chacon

phyllis wheatley

i think this will be an ongoing beef with academia for hundreds of years to come about the work of non-white authors being included in what are considered the classics of american literature. what really pissed me off about the art in the bookstore was that i had just implicitly expected them to be more comprehensive in their classifications. guess i was wrong…

“youth” by langston hughes


~ by Anayah on November 26, 2006.

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