Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Women's Work, Between the World and Me & accumulated knowledge
Later this week, I'm giving a presentation on Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me, and since the presentation is taking place at the University of Oregon (UO), I couldn't help but think about this book Women's Work: Nationalism and Contemporary African American Women's Novels (2013) by the homegirl Courtney Thorsson. She's been holding things down at UO, and I've written about her book a few different times here.
While Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor, Toni Cade Bambara, and others constitute the focal points of Thorsson's book, I noticed that she also charts this rich body of accumulated knowledge and scholarly work among black women thinkers over the years. Aspects of that knowledge and scholarly work are quite apparent in the citations and footnotes throughout the book.
Coates's book is also the result of a range of accumulated knowledge, if from different sources. For one, prior to the publication of Between the World and Me, Coates produced a few thousand blog entries at The Atlantic since 2008. His book represents a glimpse of the many topics he covered.
In addition, after completing an extensive index of Between the World and Me with my graduate student Cynthia Campbell this semester, I became more keenly aware of how many sources and accumulated knowledge in African American studies, broadly defined. Coates references dozens and dozens of black artists and thinkers; he cites key locales and concepts; he makes connections across black histories and cultural ideas.
The experiences of Thorsson's Women's Work and Coates's Between the World and Me prompted me to read and re-read a variety of other writers and works.
• A Notebook on work by Courtney Thorsson
• Notations for a common reading experience of Ta-Nehisi Coates
• A Notebook on the work of Ta-Nehisi Coates