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Literature, Theory, and Resistance: Barbara Christian's Vision of Literary Criticism


Barbara Christian and The Race for Theory: A Critical Review




In this article, we will explore the topic of "barbara christian the race for theory pdf", which refers to a seminal essay by Barbara Christian, a prominent African American feminist literary critic. We will examine what Christian means by "the race for theory", why she considers it a problematic trend in literary studies, how she challenges it from her perspective as a black woman writer and critic, and what implications her essay has for contemporary literary criticism. We will also provide some background information on Christian's life and work, as well as some suggestions for further reading or research.




barbara christian the race for theory pdf



Introduction




What is "the race for theory" and why is it problematic? According to Barbara Christian, "the race for theory" is a term that she uses to describe "a takeover in the literary world by Western philosophers from the old literary elite, the neutral humanists" . She argues that these philosophers have redefined literature and theory in such a way that they have blurred the distinctions between different types of writing, ignored the role of feeling and emotion in literature, and imposed their own abstract and complex language and methods on literary criticism. As a result, they have marginalized and silenced critics who do not conform to their standards and methods, especially critics from marginalized groups such as women, people of color, and third world writers.


Who is Barbara Christian and what is her contribution to literary criticism? Barbara Christian (1943-2000) was a professor of African American studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She was one of the pioneers of black feminist literary criticism, as well as a prolific writer of essays, books, reviews, interviews, and memoirs. She was particularly interested in studying the history and literature of black women writers, both in the United States and around the world. She was also an activist who participated in various social movements such as civil rights, women's liberation, anti-war, anti-apartheid, and anti-nuclear movements. She was widely respected and admired by her colleagues, students, friends, and readers.


What is the main argument of her essay "The Race for Theory"? In her essay "The Race for Theory", which was first published in 1987 in Feminist Studies, Christian critiques the race for theory and its implications for her own work and voice as a black woman writer and critic. She argues that the race for theory is not only elitist, exclusionary, and oppressive, but also irrelevant and disconnected from the reality and diversity of literature and life. She proposes an alternative way of doing literary criticism that is more attentive to the specificities of texts, contexts, and readers, and that is more creative, humanistic, and dialogic. She also affirms the value and importance of black women's literature and criticism as a source of inspiration, insight, and beauty.


The Takeover of Western Philosophers in the Literary World




How did Western philosophers redefine literature and theory to suit their own purposes? Christian traces the origins of the race for theory to the emergence of structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, and other forms of contemporary literary theory that are heavily influenced by Western philosophy, especially French philosophy. She observes that these philosophers have changed the meaning of literature from "those things written to evoke feeling as well as to express thought" to "everything written" . They have also changed the meaning of theory from "a set of tentative hypotheses about the nature of things" to "a fixed constellation of ideas" . By doing so, they have reduced literature to a mere object of analysis, and theory to a mere tool of interpretation.


How did they blur the distinctions between different types of writing and ignore the role of feeling and emotion in literature? Christian notes that these philosophers have blurred the distinctions between different types of writing by treating all texts as equal and interchangeable. They have also ignored the role of feeling and emotion in literature by focusing only on the formal aspects of texts, such as language, structure, signification, etc. They have disregarded the aesthetic, ethical, political, and social dimensions of literature, as well as the affective, imaginative, and experiential aspects of reading and writing. They have assumed that literature is a self-contained system that can be understood without reference to its historical, cultural, or personal contexts.


How did they marginalize and silence critics who did not conform to their standards and methods? Christian argues that these philosophers have marginalized and silenced critics who did not conform to their standards and methods by creating a hierarchy of value and authority in literary criticism. They have privileged their own language and methods as the only valid and legitimate ones, and they have dismissed or ignored other languages and methods as inferior or irrelevant. They have also monopolized the spaces and resources for publishing and disseminating their ideas, and they have used their power to determine who gets hired or promoted in academic institutions. They have effectively excluded critics who do not share their background, orientation, or agenda from participating in the literary conversation.


The Resistance of Black Women Writers and Critics




How did black women writers create original, passionate, insightful and beautiful works that challenged the dominant literary canon? Christian celebrates the achievements of black women writers who have created original, passionate, insightful and beautiful works that challenged the dominant literary canon. She cites examples such as Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Paule Marshall, Ntozake Shange, Gloria Naylor, Toni Cade Bambara, Gayl Jones, Octavia Butler, June Jordan, and many others. She argues that these writers have used their imagination, creativity, and courage to express their thoughts and feelings in diverse forms and genres, such as novels, short stories, poems, plays, essays, memoirs, and speeches. They have also explored various themes and issues that are relevant to their lives and experiences, such as identity, culture, history, race, gender, class, sexuality, violence, oppression, resistance, love, hope, and joy. They have not only enriched the literary landscape with their works, but also challenged the literary canon with their perspectives.


How did black women critics develop alternative ways of reading and interpreting literature that honored their history, culture and experience? Christian praises the contributions of black women critics who have developed alternative ways of reading and interpreting literature that honored their history, culture and experience. She mentions examples such as Mary Helen Washington, Hazel Carby, Barbara Smith, Cheryl Wall, Deborah McDowell, bell hooks, Angela Davis, Paula Giddings, Michele Wallace, Ann duCille, and many others. She argues that these critics have used their knowledge, wisdom, and sensitivity to read and interpret literature in ways that are attentive to the specificities of texts, contexts, and readers. They have also employed various approaches and methods that are informed by their interdisciplinary backgrounds, feminist commitments, and activist engagements. They have not only offered new insights The Resistance of Black Women Writers and Critics




... of literature, but also challenged the dominant paradigms and discourses of literary criticism.


The Relevance of Christian's Essay for Contemporary Literary Studies




How does Christian's essay expose the limitations and biases of the race for theory and its proponents? Christian's essay exposes the limitations and biases of the race for theory and its proponents by revealing their hidden assumptions, agendas, and interests. She shows that their claims to universality, objectivity, and neutrality are false and misleading, and that their theories are actually rooted in their specific historical, cultural, and ideological contexts. She also demonstrates that their theories are not only irrelevant and disconnected from the reality and diversity of literature and life, but also oppressive and harmful to those who do not fit into their narrow and rigid frameworks. She argues that their theories are not only a form of intellectual colonization, but also a form of psychological violence.


How does Christian's essay offer a vision of literary criticism that is more inclusive, diverse, creative and humanistic? Christian's essay offers a vision of literary criticism that is more inclusive, diverse, creative and humanistic by proposing an alternative way of doing literary criticism that is based on her own experience and practice as a black woman writer and critic. She suggests that literary criticism should be a dialogic process that involves listening to and learning from different voices, perspectives, and experiences. She also suggests that literary criticism should be a creative process that involves expressing one's own voice, perspective, and experience in relation to the texts and contexts one encounters. She also suggests that literary criticism should be a humanistic process that involves recognizing and respecting the humanity of oneself and others in the act of reading and writing.


How does Christian's essay inspire us to rethink our own assumptions and practices as readers, writers and critics? Christian's essay inspires us to rethink our own assumptions and practices as readers, writers and critics by inviting us to question the validity and value of the race for theory and its proponents. She encourages us to examine our own motives, goals, and methods as readers, writers and critics, and to consider how they affect our understanding and appreciation of literature and life. She also encourages us to explore other possibilities and alternatives for reading, writing, and criticizing literature that are more aligned with our own interests, needs, and values. She also encourages us to engage with other readers, writers, and critics who have different backgrounds, orientations, and agendas, and to learn from their experiences, insights, and critiques.


Conclusion




In conclusion, we have reviewed the topic of "barbara christian the race for theory pdf", which refers to a seminal essay by Barbara Christian, a prominent African American feminist literary critic. We have examined what Christian means by "the race for theory", why she considers it a problematic trend in literary studies, how she challenges it from her perspective as a black woman writer and critic, and what implications her essay has for contemporary literary criticism. We have also provided some background information on Christian's life and work, as well as some suggestions for further reading or research.


We hope that this article has helped you to understand and appreciate Christian's essay better, and to reflect on your own position and practice as a reader, writer or critic. We also hope that this article has inspired you to explore more of Christian's works, as well as the works of other black women writers and critics who have contributed to the field of literary studies.


FAQs




Here are some frequently asked questions about the topic and their answers:



  • Q: Where can I find Christian's essay "The Race for Theory"?



  • A: You can find Christian's essay "The Race for Theory" online at https://pullias.usc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/christian.pdf. You can also find it in her book Within the Circle: An Anthology of African American Literary Criticism from the Harlem Renaissance to the Present, which was published by Duke University Press in 1994.



  • Q: What are some other essays by Christian that I should read?



  • A: Some other essays by Christian that you should read are "Black Women Novelists: The Development of a Tradition, 1892-1976", which was published in Black American Literature Forum in 1979; "African Oral Narrative Traditions", which was published in African American Review in 1991; and "The Black Woman Artist as Wayward", which was published in African American Review in 1994.



  • Q: What are some other books by Christian that I should read?



  • A: Some other books by Christian that you should read are Black Feminist Criticism: Perspectives on Black Women Writers, which was published by Pergamon Press in 1985; New Black Feminist Criticism, 1985-2000, which was published by University of Illinois Press in 2007; and From the Inside Out: Afro-American Women's Literary Tradition and the State, which was published by University of Michigan Press in 2010.



  • Q: What are some other black women writers and critics that I should read?



  • A: Some other black women writers and critics that you should read are Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Paule Marshall, Ntozake Shange, Gloria Naylor, Toni Cade Bambara, Gayl Jones, Octavia Butler, June Jordan, Mary Helen Washington, Hazel Carby, Barbara Smith, Cheryl Wall, Deborah McDowell, bell hooks, Angela Davis, Paula Giddings, Michele Wallace, Ann duCille, and many others.



  • Q: What are some other sources or resources that I can use to learn more about the topic?



  • A: Some other sources or resources that you can use to learn more about the topic are The Cambridge Companion to African American Women's Literature, which was edited by Angelyn Mitchell and Danille K. Taylor and published by Cambridge University Press in 2009; The Routledge Companion to African American Literature, which was edited by Gene Andrew Jarrett and published by Routledge in 2010; and The Oxford Handbook of African American Literary Theory, which was edited by Jennifer Wilks and published by Oxford University Press in 2020.



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