Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Preface to even more Amiri Baraka Studies

During the question and answer portion of a round table discussion at the American Literature Association (ALA) conference, a member of the audience mentioned "Baraka Studies" in passing. Some of us were amused at the ease of the phrase. "Baraka Studies" is now so natural it seems, though who knew we'd get to this point?

At ALA, Jean-philippe Marcoux organized two panels on behalf of the Amiri Baraka Society. There was:
Some Other Blues I: New Perspectives on Amiri Baraka (May 24)
Organized by The Amiri Baraka Society
Chair: Jean-Philippe Marcoux, Universite Laval
1.“LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka and the Curious Case of Mason Jordan Mason.” Benjamin Lee, University of
2. "Incidents: Cullen, Baraka, Trethewey." Tyrone Williams, Xavier University
3. "Black and Blues: Amiri Baraka and Gil Scott-Heron's Political Poetry." Michael New, Saint Anselm College
Some Other Blues II: A Roundtable on Amiri Baraka (May 25)
Organized by The Amiri Baraka Society
Chair: Jean-Philippe Marcoux, Universite Laval
William J. Harris, University of Kansas
Aldon Lynn Nielsen, Penn State University
Kathy Lou Schultz, University of Memphis
Howard Rambsy, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Jean-Philippe Marcoux, Universite Laval

The panels were comprised of scholars who are contributing to a collection of essays on Baraka edited by Marcoux. Those essays are extending, not beginning, the study of Baraka's work. Such studies began decades ago. Nonetheless, not until recently have we heard a phrase like "Baraka Studies."

One of my professors, William J. Harris, has now been actively studying Baraka's work for over 50 years. That's serious possibility. Add to that all the other scholars who've contributed to what we've now easily referred to as Baraka Studies. 

One of the cool things about the round table was the number of poetry scholars in the room. Anthony Reed, Emily Rutter, Micky New, Aldon Nielsen, Kathy Lou Schultz, Harris, Ben Lee, Tyrone Williams, Marcoux, and more. Amazing how Baraka brings together so many people who do work on poetry.

Of course, research and writing on him also includes examinations of his plays, essays, short stories, live performances, and on and on and on. If all goes well, then the body of scholarship that we've seen so far might comprise a preface to even more Baraka Studies.

A Notebook on the work of Amiri Baraka

1 comment:

Jerry W. Ward, Jr. said...

Yes, we need to reread and reassess all of Baraka's work, but that effort should ideally lead to use of his ideas in dealing with the primary social, economic, and cultural problems of the 21st century. I am weary of the trend to use "safe" or "non-abrasive" literary figures to veil the urgency of confrontation.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.