The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Department of English

bell hooks, "Postmodern Blackness," 1990

page numbers from the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism

  1. When was this essay written? Do its concerns resemble those of Henry Louis Gates' "Talking Black"? Houston Baker's "Blues, Ideology and African-American Literature"? Of Anzaldua's "Borderlands/Fronteras"?
  2. What situation or impasse does hooks describe in the opening passages of the essay? Might her concerns have been especially timely at the time this essay was written?
  3. Which groups or ideologies have ignored the identities and voices of black women? (2479, black male critics, non-black feminists)
  4. What seems to be her definition of postmodernist? (critique of concepts of identity and master narratives, relationship of self with "other") In what ways can the practices of postmodernism be alienating for black people? (2480)
  5. On what grounds does hooks describe the black power movement as modernist? (universalizing and patriarchal, 2479) What would she like to see as the contrasting stance of radical black postmodernism? (politics of difference should be identified with the politics of racism, 2481)
  6. What has been wrong with many previous postmodernist approaches to issues of identity, in her view? (ignore marginal groups) With postmodernist critiques of "essentialism"? (2480)
  7. Following Cornel West, what does hooks see as the condition of contemporary postmodern black people? (2481, displacement, alienation and despair)
  8. How may their sense of alienation be seen as "postmodern"? (2481, other groups also share this) What possibilities may arise from this commonality? (2481, empathy, alliances across boundaries)
  9. According to hooks, what do members of minority groups long for? (critical voice) How does rap attempt to satisfy this longing for a particular group? (2481)
  10. How can a postmodernist critique of essentialism aid African-Americans in their struggle for recognition? (2482, can help in reformulating outmoded notions of a fixed identity, give sense of multiple black identities--e. g., class differences)
  11. What kinds of false dichotomies does she feel need to be discarded? (assimilated vs. separatist)
  12. What will bind black people together and aid in forming a common identity? (2483, sense of culture arising from common experience)
  13. Of what forms of censorship of minority writers does she complain? (2483)
  14. What form of expression, in her view, seems least subject to censorship?
  15. What audience does hooks seek to reach? (2484, all kinds of black people) What social groups should help the [black] critic in framing her/his ideas? What types of connections and subject matter?
  16. Through what processes does she believe new ideas are likely to occur? (ties to the black community, creative artists)
  17. What may be the "central future location of resistance struggle"? (popular culture, 2484) Do you agree?
  18. Hw does her definition of postmodernism differ from Huston Baker's poststructuralism? Would some of her criticisms apply to his essay on the blues?
  19. Do you see parallels between hooks's views and those of any non-black authors we have read?



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