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Getting on

Joyce Carol Oates, 12 January 1995

Colored People: A Memoir 
by Henry LouisGates.
Viking, 216 pp., £16, January 1995, 0 670 85737 8
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... anarchic the controversy is. And how far from being resolved, or even fully articulated. Henry LouisGates, professor of English and chairman of Afro-American Studies at Harvard, has been one of the most articulate commentators on the subject. His first scholarly interest was the recovery and editing of ...

Every single one matters

Elaine Showalter and English Showalter: The first black female novelist?, 18 August 2005

In Search of Hannah Crafts: Critical Essays on ‘The Bondwoman’s Narrative’ 
edited by Henry LouisGates, Jr and Hollis Robbins.
Basic Books, 458 pp., £17.50, January 2005, 0 465 02708 3
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... On 11 November 2001, the New York Times announced a major literary discovery. Henry LouisGates, chairman of the African-American Studies Department at Harvard, had bought at auction the unpublished manuscript of the ‘earliest known novel by a female African-American slave and probably the earliest known novel by a black woman anywhere ...

The Shape of Absence

Hilary Mantel: The Bondwoman’s Narrative, 8 August 2002

The Bondwoman’s Narrative: A Novel 
by Hannah Crafts, edited by Henry LouisGates.
Virago, 338 pp., £10.99, May 2002, 1 86049 013 1
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... offered jazz photographs and religious texts, and the memorabilia of black figures from Joe Louis to Malcolm X. There was an autograph letter from Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave who published his autobiography in 1845 and became a leading Abolitionist. There were documents that shed light on the intimate workings of the ‘peculiar ...

The Dirty Dozens

Terence Hawkes, 21 July 1994

Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars 
by Henry LouisGates.
Oxford, 199 pp., £15, October 1993, 0 19 507519 6
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The Alchemy of Race and Rights 
by Patricia Williams.
Virago, 263 pp., £7.99, September 1993, 1 85381 674 4
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... of the world at large, are obviously at stake, and in their engagements with these, both Henry LouisGates and Patricia Williams offer despatches from various front lines of what have been called the ‘culture wars’. What is at stake is the meaning of the term ‘America’, and ...

The Word on the Street

Elaine Showalter, 7 March 1996

Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics 
by Anonymous.
Chatto, 366 pp., £15.99, February 1996, 0 7011 6584 7
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... satire. Anonymous has been strongly influenced by All the King’s Men (1946). His narrator, Henry Burton, the preppy, intellectual grandson of a black American hero like Martin Luther King, sounds a lot like Warren’s troubled and dislocated Jack Burden. His candidate, Jack Stanton, sounds a lot like Warren’s Willie Stark, ‘a country hick’, in ...

Freddie Gray

Adam Shatz, 21 May 2015

... if they were thugs. This suspicion isn’t confined to the black poor, either, as Obama’s friend Henry LouisGates discovered when he was arrested while trying to get into his own house, after a phone call to the police from a white bystander. America has undergone a significant racial transformation since the ...

White Lies

James Campbell: Nella Larsen, 5 October 2006

In Search of Nella Larsen: A Biography of the Colour Line 
by George Hutchinson.
Harvard, 611 pp., £25.95, June 2006, 0 674 02180 0
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... the New York Times critic Anatole Broyard, who died in 1990, was unmasked in the New Yorker by Henry LouisGates. In the early 1950s, Broyard had threatened to sue the publishers of a novel by Chandler Brossard, Who Walk in Darkness, which contained a character evidently based on him. It began: ‘People said ...

What Matters

Walter Benn Michaels: Class Trumps Race, 27 August 2009

Who Cares about the White Working Class? 
edited by Kjartan Páll Sveinsson.
Runnymede Perspectives, 72 pp., January 2009, 978 1 906732 10 3
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... it is right-wing politics. The recent furore over the arrest for ‘disorderly conduct’ of Henry LouisGates helps make this clear. Gates, as one of his Harvard colleagues said, is ‘a famous, wealthy and important black man’, a point ...

Nutty Professors

Hal Foster: ‘Lingua Franca’, 8 May 2003

Quick Studies: The Best of ‘Lingua Franca’ 
edited by Alexander Star.
Farrar, Straus, 514 pp., $18, September 2002, 0 374 52863 2
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... reborn, especially in the case of scholars from racial minorities (black intellectuals such as Henry LouisGates and Cornel West are not considered in Quick Studies, and post-colonial theorists such as Edward Said and Gayatri Spivak are mostly dismissed). Finally, the PC Battles were indeed lost by the ...

Like What Our Peasants Still Are

Landeg White: Afrocentrism, 13 May 1999

Afrocentrism: Mythical Pasts and Imagined Homes 
by Stephen Howe.
Verso, 337 pp., £22, June 1998, 1 85984 873 7
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... any lasting damage to scholarship, least of all to the work of serious black scholars such as Henry LouisGates, Paul Gilroy, Manning Marable and Cornel West (to pick names at random). Though a few of the books he describes are undeniably nasty in their anti-semitic and psychosexual bigotry, he also tells us how ...
Adventures on the Freedom Road: The French Intellectuals in the 20th Century 
by Bernard-Henri Lévy, translated by Richard Veasey.
Harvill, 434 pp., £20, December 1995, 1 86046 035 6
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The Imaginary Jew 
by Alain Finkielkraut, translated by Kevin O’Neill and David Suchoff.
Nebraska, 230 pp., £23.95, August 1994, 0 8032 1987 3
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The Defeat of the Mind 
by Alain Finkielkraut, translated by Judith Friedlander.
Columbia, 165 pp., $15, May 1996, 0 231 08023 9
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... or Arthur Schlesinger: ‘far from a neoconservative’, he is, rather, a pluralist in the vein of Henry LouisGates, and his reflections on the differences between the terms ‘Israelite’ and ‘Jew’ find an echo in the American opposition between ‘Black’ and ‘African-American’. Suchoff praises ...

Leave them weeping

Colin Grant: Frederick Douglass, 1 August 2019

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom 
by David Blight.
Simon and Schuster, 892 pp., £30, November 2018, 978 1 4165 9031 6
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... was my master.’ Ten years later he said his father might have been a mulatto. In other words, as Henry LouisGates put it, Douglass ‘completely diminished the whiteness and the masterness of his father over ten years’. In his 1854 essay ‘The Claims of the Negro, Ethnologically Considered’, Douglass stated ...

On the Secret Joke at the Centre of American Identity

Michael Rogin: Ralph Ellison, 2 March 2000

Juneteenth 
by Ralph Ellison, edited by John Callaghan.
Hamish Hamilton, 368 pp., £16.99, December 1999, 0 241 14084 6
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... is a set of fragments masquerading as a whole – a Frankenstein’s monster, Louis Menand called it in the New York Times – and the simple plot line that Callahan imposes for unifying effect violates the form Ellison imagined and failed to achieve in this disparate, untitled, unfinished work, several sections of which had already ...

Loaded Dice

Thomas Chatterton Williams: Ta-Nehisi Coates, 3 December 2015

Between the World and Me 
by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Text, 152 pp., £10.99, September 2015, 978 1 925240 70 2
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... lists like ‘Geniuses of Western Music’ written by people who evidently believed Louis Armstrong and Aretha Franklin did not exist. That tradition continues. Dylan Byers knows nothing of your work, and therefore your work must not exist. Here is the machinery of racism – the privilege of being oblivious to questions, of never having to ...
... He had a mind so fine that no idea could violate it’: T.S. Eliot writing of Henry James in the Little Review of August 1918. I want to take exception, not to the truth of Eliot’s pronouncement (he was right about James), but to the set of lofty assumptions calmly towering behind it. The young Eliot’s epigram summed up with cutting brevity a creed that for Modernists appeared beyond dispute ...

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