10 Topics on African American Literature for Literary Analysis

Topics and ideas
Posted on February 23, 2016

If you are tasked with writing a literary analysis on African American literature, your goal is to review the literary devices that a specific author or, in some cases, multiple authors use to convey details about their story. It is important that you rely upon facts to do this, and below you will find ten great facts you can use in your next writing assignment:

  1. All of the great African American monologues and pieces of narration from main characters will often give the reader or the viewer a tremendous amount of information that really helps the story to move forward and explains a lot about the individual character. It is for this reason that the works by Toni Morrison offer so much narration from the characters, affording the reader great insight into the story just by reading one perspective.
  2. In African American literature a universal theme is not something related to space travel, but is instead the meaning of a story or play that can be appreciated and understood within any culture or society. For example, the theme of loyalty and love that is the heart of “The African American Book of Values” is one of the reasons that the tale has been able to remain so popular for so many centuries.
  3. Literary works that demonstrate a single universal theme may not be similar at all because they all focus on the universal theme of “coming of age”. This means, in a universal way, the transition from childhood to adulthood. In literary terms, it can also mean that a main character will have gone through a massive transformation by the end of the story and usually learned valuable lessons. This is seen in many pieces by Richard Wright and Maya Angelou who both portray coming of age within different circumstances.
  4. African American writers will frequently use time or a sequence of events to tell their tales. They don’t always follow the linear path the time does, however. For example, in the famous book “Father Found” the story takes place over a single timeline, but the reader is bounced around from a variety of different locations and times without losing track of the storyline, thanks to the author’s expert abilities. There are other literary devices that authors can use to create their particular sequence of events, and most will steer away from the old-fashioned “start to finish” for valid reasons. For example, an author might rely on something known as “foreshadowing” to warn or clue the reader that something is likely to happen.
  5. African American writers can use traits, plots, genres, and dialogue of all kinds to move the story forward or to help the audience to really understand the heroes of the tale. They also use some alternative devices to ensure that they convey their theme and really get their point across. Symbolism is found in the book “Walking on Water” wherein the African American author uses objects or locations to convey some sort of major plot point, theme and concept related to the tale.
  6. “Remembering Slavery” is a great place to find a lot of figurative language. For instance, you will read a lot of lines that compare things to one another and use phrases such as “like” and “as” in order to do so. These descriptions might be describing the ferocity of slavery, the way sleep descends on a character or experience of a great joy.
  7. African American authors rely upon textual impact regularly in their work. When an aspect of the work is not plainly spoken, this is done intentionally by the author. For example, Zora Neale Hurston used such devices as ambiguity whereby she relied upon unclear language for some scenes. This enabled her to point something out in her work without obviously stating it. She also used subtlety and in doing so, picked gentle phrasing in order to suggest something or point something out, rather than bluntly throwing it in the face of the reader.
  8. Alice Walker took great strides with the narrator in her works. The narrator is the “voice” that is giving a first person version of the story. This does not mean that the narrator should always be trusted and there are many ways that writers will use narrators to impact their stories. It is the writer’s prerogative to select the voice, personality, and general characterization of the narrator.
  9. Langston Hughes engaged in a great deal of beat poetry and literature and in doing so, capitalized upon the elements of a scene to get his ideas across to the reader. He used dialogue as a key element in his books and plays in order to avoid telling his readers exactly what his characters were feeling or thinking, but rather, to convey the most relevant points without being too descriptive. His most successful dialogue was not simplistic in nature, but allowed the reader to follow his story by way of his characters’ actions and their words simultaneously. He also relied upon scene designs, asides, and character foils to convey some of his points.
  10. E. B. Du Bois was famous for the aesthetics of his work. His aesthetics have long been viewed as a sort of philosophy that looks at art through a “lens” focused on beauty. When it is used to analyze literature, an aesthetic view will normally consider the style of the writer and all of their choices. The language chosen by W. E. B. Du Bois was very specific and intentional too. He understood that a work is often analyzed according to the “aesthetic approach” and this means that the diction of the characters, the themes, mood, tone, and figurative language used in the work will be used to measure the quality of it. In his literary works he was able to use the words in a way that allowed the characters to speak beautifully, convey the tone or mood of the play, and also employ figurative descriptions too.

We hope these facts will prove useful for your custom essay. What you can also use is our set of 20 topics on African American literature with 1 sample essay and our guide on literary analysis paper on these topics.

Andrews, William L, Frances Smith Foster, and Trudier Harris. The Oxford Companion To African American Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Print.
Andrews, William L, Frances Smith Foster, and Trudier Harris. The Concise Oxford Companion To African American Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print.
Balshaw, Maria. Looking For Harlem. London: Pluto Press, 2000. Print.
Bruce, Dickson D. The Origins Of African American Literature, 1680-1865. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2001. Print.
Currie, Stephen. African American Literature. Detroit: Lucent Books, 2011. Print.
Gates, Henry Louis, and Nellie Y McKay. The Norton Anthology Of African American Literature. Print.
Warren, Kenneth W. What Was African American Literature?. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2011. Print.

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