Characteristics of Negro Expression: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Characteristics of Negro Expression

1st Edition

By Mercedes Aguirre, Benjamin Lempert

Macat Library

94 pages

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pub: 2017-07-15
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Description

The racial prejudices of 1930s America were many, and included a common presumption that African American art was unoriginal – merely poorly copying white culture.

African-American novelist, anthropologist and essayist Zora Neale Hurston crushingly evaluated such assumptions in her 1934 essay ‘Characteristics of Negro Expression.’ While Hurston’s approach and premises seem in many ways dated to modern readers, the essay still shows an incisive mind carefully evaluating arguments and cutting them down to size. African-American art of the time did not – Hurston influentially argued – play by the same rules as white art, so it could not meaningfully be discussed by ‘white’ notions of aesthetic value.

Where white European tradition views art as something fixed, Hurston saw African-American art works as a distinctive form of mimicry, reshaping and altering the original object until it became something new and novel. In this way, she contended, African-American creative expression is a process that generates its own form of originality – turning borrowed material into something original and unique. By carefully evaluating the relevance of previous arguments, Hurston showed African American artistic expression in an entirely new light.

Table of Contents

Ways in to the text Who was Zora Heale Hurston? What does Characteristics of Negro Expression say? Why does Characteristics of Negro Expression matter? Section 1: Influences Module 1: The Author and the Historical Context Module 2: Academic Context Module 3: The Problem Module 4: The Author's Contribution  Section 2: Ideas Module 5: Main Ideas Module 6: Secondary Ideas Module 7: Achievement Module 8: Place in the Author's Work Section 3: Impact Module 9: The First Responses Module 10: The Evolving Debate Module 11: Impact and Influence Today Module 12: Where Next? Glossary of Terms People Mentioned in the Text  Works Cited

About the Authors

Dr Mercedes Aguirre holds a PhD in American literature from University College, London. She is currently Curator of North American Published Collections at the British Library.

Dr Ben Lempert holds a PhD in rhetoric from the University of California at Berkeley for his research on form and voice in post-war American jazz and poetry. He has held a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford and his research interests focus on the idea of "race" as it plays out in poetry, music, and fiction. Dr Lempert currently teaches college courses on literature, film, music, and writing.

About the Series

The Macat Library

Great Works for Critical Thinking

Making the ideas of the world’s great thinkers accessible, affordable, and comprehensible to everybody, everywhere. 

With a growing list of over 180 titles across a broad range of subject areas, Macat works with leading academics from the world’s top universities to produce new analyses that focus on the ideas and the impact of the most influential works ever written. By setting them in context – and looking at the influences that shaped their authors, as well as the responses they provoked – Macat encourages readers to look at these classics and game-changers with fresh eyes.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LIT000000
LITERARY CRITICISM / General