Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Pre-future of black writing: some notations

“I am not post-modern. I am pre-future.” Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

Beyond the “death” or post-ness of Af-Am literary art, we might do well to think about new and ongoing developments.

How is twitter influencing the reception of Colson Whitehead’s upcoming novel? What can we make of poet Treasure Williams’s kwansabas on facebook focusing on Fannie Lou Hamer? What makes journalist and blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates such a powerful and visible facilitator of conversations about race, African American culture, and the Civil War? In what ways might Evie Shockley’s poem about Frederick Douglass and Barack Obama serve as a model for thinking about making links between historical figures—past and present?

The coming years or decade will likely reveal answers to those questions, which leads me to believe we could be viewing an important “pre-future,” to use literary critic Jerry Ward’s word, of black writing.

Framing current trends in black writing as preludes as opposed to postscripts is a choice, but it’s a choice that increases possibilities for highlighting the actual work that writers are engaged in producing.

The view that black writers are active composers and producers, not simply products and results of literary traditions, can assist us in gaining an appreciation and awareness of some of these specific developments taking place.

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