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Humanities Libertexts

5.S: Writing about Racial, Ethnic, and Cultural Identity (Summary)

  • Page ID
    14829
  • KEY TAKEAWAYS

    • Just as literature reflects history, literature also reflects the cultural assumptions shared by the society in which it was produced. Often works from the Western canon view nonwhite characters in prejudiced ways that justify Western imperialism.
    • You can understand a text’s racial, ethnic, or cultural messages by paying particular attention to the way that groups of people are described, particularly in contrast to other groups.
    • When writing about race, ethnicity, and colonialism, utilize both primary and secondary sources to fully engage with the text’s historical context. Using a mix of primary and secondary sources will be key to writing through the lens of New Historicism, a literary theory that we explore in Chapter 7.
    • When writing about literature, you can modify, extend, dispute, or challenge the opinions of other scholars. By demonstrating how your ideas differ from theirs, you demonstrate your maturity as a thinker and writer.

    Suggestions for Further Reading

    Sources on African American and Ethnic Criticism

    • Awkward, Michael. Inspiring Influences: Tradition, Revision, and Afro-American Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.
    • Delgado, Richard, and Jean Stefancic. Critical Race Theory: An Introduction. New York: New York University Press, 2001.
    • Ferrante, Joan, and Prince Brown Jr., eds. The Social Construction of Race and Ethnicity in the United States. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001.
    • Hazel, Ervin, ed. African American Literary Criticism. New York: Twayne, 1999.
    • LaCapra, Dominick, ed. The Bounds of Race: Perspectives on Hegemony and Resistance. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991.
    • Mitchell, Angelyn, ed. Within the Circle: An Anthology of African American Literary Criticism from the Harlem Renaissance to the Present. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1994.
    • Morrison, Toni. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. New York: Vintage, 1993.

    Sources on Postcolonial Criticism

    • Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literature. New York: Routledge, 1989.
    • ———, eds. The Post-Colonial Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 1995.
    • Kennedy, Valerie. Edward Said: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2000.
    • Loomba, Ania. Colonialism/Postcolonialism. New York: Routledge, 1998.
    • Poddar, Prem, and David Johnson, eds. A Historical Companion to Postcolonial Thought in English. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.
    • Rushdie, Salman. Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism, 1981–91. London: Penguin, 1991.
    • Williams, Patrick, and Laura Chrisman, eds. Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.