Postcolonialism, African American Literary Studies, and the Black Atlantic

Title Details

Pages: 192

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 11/01/2007

ISBN: 9-780-8203-3026-6

List Price: $26.95


Postcolonialism, African American Literary Studies, and the Black Atlantic

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  • Description
  • Reviews

Confluences looks at the prospects for and the potential rewards of breaking down theoretical and disciplinary barriers that have tended to separate African American and postcolonial studies. John Cullen Gruesser’s study emphasizes the confluences among three major theories that have emerged in literary and cultural studies in the past twenty-five years: postcolonialism, Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s Signifyin(g), and Paul Gilroy’s black Atlantic.

For readers who may not be well acquainted with one or more of the three theories, Gruesser provides concise introductions in the opening chapter. In addition, he urges those people working in postcolonial or African American literary studies to attempt to break down the boundaries that in recent years have come to isolate the two fields. Gruesser then devotes a chapter to each theory, examining one literary text that illustrates the value of the theoretical model, a second text that extends the model in a significant way, and a third text that raises one or more questions about the theory. His examples are drawn from the writings of Salman Rushdie, Jean Rhys, V. S. Naipaul, Walter Mosley, Pauline Hopkins, Toni Morrison, Harry Dean, Harriet Jacobs, and Alice Walker.

Cautious not to conflate postcolonial and African American studies, Gruesser encourages critics to embrace the black Atlantic’s emphases on movement through space (routes rather than roots) and intercultural connections and to expand and where appropriate to emend Gilroy’s efforts to bridge the two fields.

Confluences is concise and cogent. Because he so ably demonstrates his critique and suggestions through deliberate readings of texts that cause us to question some of the more popular of contemporary critical suppositions, his book will be of tremendous interest to a wide range of readers and scholars.

—Aldon L. Nielsen, Pennsylvania State University

Confluences joins Paul Gilroy's The Black Atlantic in the first rank of books investigating African American literature's place in the postcolonial tradition. Placing postcolonialism in dialogue with the major texts of African American literary theory, Gruesser provides a deft introduction to the major currents of postcolonial theory and makes a compelling case for postcolonialism as an appropriate touchstone for black criticism in the new century.

—Craig Werner, author of A Change Is Gonna Come: Music, Race, and the Soul of America

A very welcome addition to postcolonial debates, Confluences offers a commanding reinterpretation of the often vexed relationship between texts and theories, writers and theorists, while at the same time breaking through the artificial boundaries between African, black Atlantic, and African American literature.

—Eric J. Sundquist, UCLA Foundation Professor of Literature

Offers an important revision of the notion of linkages between African American studies and postcolonial studies


Globalizes African American studies by bringing that field into dialogue with postcolonial theory and literature

Journal of Modern Literature

Argues persuasively for a critical deterritorialization of the three fields of literary criticism that form the book's subtitle: Postcolonialism, African American Literary Studies, and the Black Atlantic . . . In seeking to redress the divisions between the fields of postcolonial studies, African American studies, and diasporic studies, Confluences makes an invaluable appeal for future scholarship that will reckon with both disciplinary and cultural hybridity.

Modern Fiction Studies

Confluences profoundly historicizes our own contemporary, theoretical, and cultural moment of blackness as it maps the routes of previous discussions of black and colonial subjectivity that traveled the discrete paths represented by those distinct bodies of scholarship. . . . Reveal[s] the impact of cultural studies as a synthesizing force, traveling across multiple geographies of color in the late twentieth century and into multiple fields of intellectual production in this century.

American Literature

About the Author/Editor

JOHN CULLEN GRUESSER is a professor of English at Kean University in New Jersey. He is the author of White on Black and Black on Black and the editor of The Unruly Voice.