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

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  311 Ratings  ·  13 Reviews
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 cultur
Paperback, 320 pages
Published December 14th 1989 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1988)
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Mark Bowles
Aug 30, 2014 Mark Bowles rated it really liked it
B. The Black English vernacular is not disappearing. In fact it is going its own way. This separate development reflects the larger social picture of segregated speech communities. Within this black vernacular the black person has encoded private, yet communal cultural rituals. This book explores the relationship between the black vernacular tradition and the African-American literary tradition. He wants to be a critic that uses black theory to understand black literature. Thus, he tries to defi ...more
The central idea that Henry Louis Gates, Jr., provides in this text is to be found in his analysis of black literature's emphasis on and use of Signification. Signifyin(g) is a technique that essentially amounts to repetition with a crucial difference, a way of commenting on other writers and their ideas through various sorts of parody and pastiche. This idea sheds new light on the seeming repetition in some black artists' work and on the literary evolution of black writers. Frequently accused o ...more
Oct 01, 2012 Ryan rated it really liked it
I read a select few essays from this book junior year in college, but recently felt the urge to finish it in its entirety. Wow, stunning clarity, compelling arguments, and a vast array of knowledgeable texts. HLG definitely reshaped a few lenses here.
Jul 15, 2016 Angie rated it it was amazing
Major Field Prep: 52/133
Henry Louis Gates’s text, The Signifying Monkey, responds to the perseverance of black vernacular in the African American literary tradition. Gates “attempts to identify a theory of criticism that is inscribed within the black vernacular tradition and that in turn informs the shape of the Afro-American literary tradition” (xix). Signifying, repetition and revision, and the trope of voicing and doubling, is the main point of analysis. He begins with a history and discussio
It's impossible to understate the influence of Skip Gates on the American humanities. He kind of established what the African-American canon was, and then had enough clout to get it taught in schools. You can't make it through a freshman lit seminar without reading Olaudah Equiano, Phyllis Wheatley, and Zora Neale Hurston, and we can thank Mr. Gates for that. But a whole lot more people namecheck him than actually read him... I'm pretty sure the vast majority of pundits, scholars, and commentato ...more
Sep 28, 2008 Becka rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: English Grad Students
So, as difficult as this highly technical piece of literary criticism was to get through, I found it extremely fascinating. Now, as I sit in grad class and we discuss aspects of African-American writings, I feel that much more educated and "clued in" to various tropes and contexts! Plus, this has proved to be an awesome resource for further research I have been doing. Three cheers for the Signifying Monkey!
Dec 14, 2013 Matt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: school
Fascinating. An alternative canon, and an introduction to the historical and sociological complexities in the emergence of a new type of literature. If you're a student and you're looking at any African-American literature or any trickster stories, this is a Must Read.
Nevin Holness
Dec 30, 2015 Nevin Holness rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Next time someone tries me about all my shit-talking, I'm gonna direct them to this book.
Ednisha Riley
Jan 26, 2016 Ednisha Riley rated it it was amazing
i remember my teacher introducing us to this book..."Skip" she called him ... i remember when I said to my uncles to "stop signifyin" and the look on their faces that I knew what it meant :)
Mar 16, 2008 UptownSinclair rated it really liked it
invaluable literary criticism.
Jun 05, 2009 Tyera rated it really liked it
i have found the signifyin' concept to come up a lot, since reading this book.
Julie Bowerman
Apr 14, 2011 Julie Bowerman rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
Fascinating literary critique that is decidedly not easy to read.
Camille Alexander
Jun 07, 2014 Camille Alexander rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very informative. Fills in historical and literary gaps regarding African American culture.
Laura Cole
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Henry Louis Gates Jr. is a Professor of African and African-American Studies at Harvard University and Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. He is well-known as a literary critic, an editor of literature, and a proponent of black literature and black cultural studies.
More about Henry Louis Gates Jr....

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