Andy HinesJun 6, 2022
Outside Literary Studies
Black Criticism and the University
University of Chicago Press 2022
This striking contribution to Black literary studies examines the practices of Black writers in the mid-twentieth century to revise our understanding of the institutionalization of literary studies in America.
In Outside Literary Studies: Black Criticism and the University (U Chicago Press, 2022), Andy Hines uncovers a vibrant history of interpretive resistance to university-based New Criticism by Black writers of the American left. These include well-known figures such as Langston Hughes and Lorraine Hansberry as well as still underappreciated writers like Melvin B. Tolson and Doxey Wilkerson. In their critical practice, these and other Black writers levied their critique from “outside” venues: behind the closed doors of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, in the classroom at a communist labor school under FBI surveillance, and in a host of journals. From these vantages, Black writers not only called out the racist assumptions of the New Criticism, but also defined Black literary and interpretive practices to support communist and other radical world-making efforts in the mid-twentieth century. Hines’s book thus offers a number of urgent contributions to literary studies: it spotlights a canon of Black literary texts that belong to an important era of anti-racist struggle, and it fills in the pre-history of the rise of Black studies and of ongoing Black dissent against the neoliberal university.
Brittney Edmonds is an Assistant Professor of Afro-American Studies at UW-Madison. I specialize in 20th and 21st century African American Literature and Culture with a special interest in Black Humor Studies. Read more about my work at brittneymichelleedmonds.com.