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Honoring the AncestorsAn African Cultural Interpretation of Black Religion and Literature$
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Donald H. Matthews

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199963997

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199963997.001.0001

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Black Literary Criticism and Narrative Hermeneutics

Black Literary Criticism and Narrative Hermeneutics

(p.71) Four Black Literary Criticism and Narrative Hermeneutics
Honoring the Ancestors

Donald H. Matthews

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines black literary criticism in relation to narrative hermeneutics. It first looks at the factors that contributed to the rise of black literary criticism, including African American culture and the historical forces that drove the development of black theology - namely, the civil rights and black power movements. It then considers Stephen Henderson's suggestion that the interpretive process for black literary criticism proceeds according to the requirements of three critical categories: the themes present in black literature; structural analysis as an aspect of black narration; and saturation, or the communication of blackness in a given situation and a sense of fidelity to the observed and intuited truth of the black experience. It also explores the difficulties in the development of a black narrative theory by focusing on the ideas of Houston Baker Jr. and Henry Louis Gates Jr. More specifically, it analyzes Baker's “vernacular” theory of black literary criticism and his interpretation of the slave narratives in comparison with Gates's hermeneutic of African American literature and his recognition of the importance of religion in the interpretation of African American culture.

Keywords:   black literary criticism, narrative hermeneutics, African American culture, black theology, Stephen Henderson, black literature, black narration, black narrative theory, Houston Baker Jr., Henry Louis Gates Jr.

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