Reading Baraka against the Grain
Hasan Al Zayed
Abstract: Discussions about African-American poet and playwright Amiri Baraka’s work often center on his relation to the American nation and its literary canon. There seem to be deliberate efforts from Baraka critics to inscribe him within the homogeneous landscape of the nation, although Baraka has been one of the staunchest critics of the American nation and confronted its imperialist ambition through politics and work. This paper proposes to read Amiri Baraka through a different set of aesthetic and political relations: through his proximity to the Third World’s oppositional literary traditions. Placing Baraka within the vicinity of canonical American writers is certainly productive and important but, as this paper argues, reading the African American poet through his Third World oppositional lineage allows for a more dialectical understanding of his work.
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Published in 2016