The Signifying Monkey
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The Signifying Monkey : A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism

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Description

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s original, groundbreaking study explores the relationship between the African and African-American vernacular traditions and black literature, elaborating a new critical approach located within this tradition that allows the black voice to speak for itself. Examining the ancient poetry and myths found in African, Latin American, and Caribbean culture, and particularly the Yoruba trickster figure of Esu-Elegbara and the Signifying Monkey, whose myths help articulate the black tradition's theory of its literature, Gates uncovers a unique system of interpretation and a powerful vernacular tradition that black slaves brought with them to the New World. His critical approach relies heavily on the Signifying Monkey-perhaps the most popular figure in African-American folklore-and signification and Signifyin(g). Exploring signification in black American life and literature by analyzing the transmission and revision of various signifying figures, Gates provides an extended analysis of what he calls the 'Talking Book', a central trope in early slave narratives that virtually defines the tradition of black American letters. Gates uses this critical framework to examine several major works of African-American literature-including Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, and Ishmael Reed's Mumbo Jumbo-revealing how these works signify on the black tradition and on each other. The second volume in an enterprising trilogy on African-American literature, The Signifying Monkey-which expands the arguments of Figures in Black-makes an important contribution to literary theory, African-American literature, folklore, and literary history.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 352 pages
  • 152.4 x 241.3 x 25.4mm | 589.67g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Reissued Edition
  • 0195136470
  • 9780195136470
  • 104,241

Review quote

Eclectic, exciting, convincing, provocative, challenging ... Gates gives black literature room to breathe, invents interpretive frameworks that enable us to experience black writing rather than label it in terms of theme or ideology. From this perspective his book is a generous, long-awaited gift ... Like great novels that force us to view the world differently, Mr. Gates' compelling study suggests new ways of seeing. * John Wideman, New York Times Book Review *show more

About Henry Louis Gates

Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Havard University; Editor-in-Chief, Oxford American Studies Center. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 'Skip' is one of the most powerful academic voices in America. In 1997 Gates was voted one of Time Magazine's '25 Most influential Americans'. He is most recognised for his extensive research of African American history and literature, and for developing and expanding the African American Studies program at Harvard University. The first black to have received a Ph.D. from Cambridge, Gates is the author of many books, articles, essays and reviews, and has received numerous awards and honorary degrees. Gates who has displayed an endless dedication to bringing African- American culture into the public, has co-authored, co-edited and produced some of the most comprehensive African-American reference materials in the country.show more

Table of contents

New Preface ; Introduction ; Part I ; 1. A Myth of Origins:Esu Elegbara and the Signifying Mokey ; 2. The Signifying Monkey and the Language of Signifyin(g): Rhetorical Difference and the Orders of Meaning ; 3. Figures of Significance ; Part II ; 4. The Trope of the Talking Book ; 5. Zora Neale Hurston and the Speakerly Text ; 6. On "The Blackness of Blackness": Ishmael Reed and a Critique of the Sign ; 7. Color Me Zora: Alice Walker's (Re) Writing of the Speakerly Text ; New Afterward ; Notes ; Indexshow more

Rating details

310 ratings
3.9 out of 5 stars
5 33% (102)
4 34% (106)
3 25% (77)
2 6% (20)
1 2% (5)
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