Friday, October 18, 2013

Courtney Thorsson and the black nationalist work of anthologies

Toni Cade Bambara's The Black Woman anthology

"Pairing the force of BAM [the  Black Arts Movement] with the diversity of anthologies, The Black Woman  is a happening as well as a text" (21). --Courtney Thorsson.

Given the work I've been doing on anthologies for the last several years, I was certainly intrigued with Courtney Thorsson's discussion in her book Women's Work: Nationalism and Contemporary African American Women's Novels (2013) of Bambara's well-known collection The Black Woman (1970). At one point, Thorsson notes that "naming a nation is the task of African American anthologies both before and after The Black Woman" (21).

Indeed, anthologies are nationalist projects, not just communal or community ones. All those collections of "black" literature confirmed or even helped materialize the idea of African America as a kind of nation.  There were more than 100 anthologies featuring black literary art.

Thorsson rightly gives special attention to the remarkable collection The Black Woman, a work that includes prose, fiction, poetry, and an engaging introduction by Bambara. Thorsson's book largely concentrates on fiction by a select group of black women writers; however, she spends some time in the introduction analyzing Bambara's anthology.   

As Thorsson makes plain: Bambara's black and feminist political perspectives, her organizing work and editorial work, and  her fiction are all interconnected.

A Notebook on work by Courtney Thorsson 

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