Literary Analysis: “African American Literature” – 20 Topics to Rely on

Topics and ideas
Posted on February 24, 2016

If you are tasked with conducting a literary analysis on African American literature, you may need a topic to help you get things started. This type of writing is the one which may require you to focus on a single piece of literature or a single African American author. In any case, you can turn your gaze a few of the topics below to help guide you in selecting yours:

  1. Contemporary Themes and Issues in Literature Written by an Author of Your Choosing
  2. The Effectiveness of a Biography in Retelling the Major Lifetime Events for a Person of Your Choosing
  3. How Stories by an African American Author of Your Choosing Analyze Aspects of Society
  4. How History is Taught in Literature Written by an African American Author of Your Choosing
  5. The Links between Themes of an Autobiography and the Literature Written by an African American Author of Your Choosing
  6. The Way an African American Author of Your Choosing Uses Sequence to Communicate Emotions
  7. How an Author of Your Choosing Uses Locations and Sensory Details in Their Work
  8. The Impact of Gestures and Movements in Portraying a Scene
  9. The Use of Interior Monologues by an African American Author of Your Choosing to Depict Feelings
  10. Changing Pace to Accommodate Changes in Mood/Time by an Author of Your Choosing
  11. Atmospheric and Descriptive Details to Convey Scenes by an African American Author of Your Choosing
  12. How an African American Author of Your Choosing Uses Shifting Perspectives to Portray Historical Events
  13. How an Author of Your Choosing Uses Descriptions of Appearance to Convey Social Inequalities
  14. The Impact of Responsive Writing in Literature by an Author of Your Choosing
  15. How Student Comprehensive Results from an African American Author Success in Conveying a Point
  16. How Works by African American Authors Relate to One Another in Different Periods
  17. How Contemporary Society Influences African American Writers in Specific Genres
  18. The Influence of Archetypal Models in Writings by an Author of Your Choosing
  19. Political versus Religious Influences of Historical Periods Which Shaped Plots
  20. Toni Morrison’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech and Ethos

Sample Literary Analysis: Toni Morrison’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech and Ethos

Achebe’s Language and the Destiny of Man, as well as Tony Morrison’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech both appeal to emotions and reason. Achebe’s piece appeals more strongly to reason, and every so often to emotion, while Morrison’s appeals primarily to emotion with a bit of reason interlaced. In Language and the Destiny of Man, the author speaks about the relationship that goes between language and society. He explores how human society would not exist were it not for speech. Achebe speaks of the fact that humans overlook how precious language is, and what a gift it is. It is argued that people forget it because language is something learned now from birth, so that it becomes something very natural with age and development. People do not question the origins of languages or how things might have been prior to language, something which is not intrinsic to humans.

Achebe claims that violence would escalate severely were it not for language. This level of violence would be so severe that it would lead to human extinction. The author provided the example of two cavemen, one who walks into a cave at night seeking shelter, only to find that another caveman already dwells inside the cave. Because they are unable to communicate, the first man throws a rock at the head of the second to inform him of his presence. But this incident is one which would provoke a violent retaliation, and then a retaliation for that, something which would inevitably result in a great deal of violence. This is an example of pathos, an emotional appeal to the halting of violence, the identification of language as a mean of combatting it at least in some situations. It is quite successful in gaining the attention of the audience and causing people to reflect upon the aforementioned origin of language that to date had gone overlooked by many. Verbal communication still plays a role in disagreements and it lacks the power to abolish all violence, and today, it can be used for something far beyond its intent, something malicious and abusive. This is another successful argument, one that draws attention to how leaders, individuals, and groups can abuse others through language, and that each person must take it upon themselves to be cognizant of this potential and to work toward using words for good.

The author stresses the importance of language and the ability to communicate with one another. Historically, a speaker has been able to use language to effectively communicate with others and to gain respect from fellow humans. This holds true even today. People who are able to effectively communicate with their audience, and to persuade their audience, can become leaders. The ability to communicate effectively and exploit all that language has to offer is what draws respect from others and what provides the opportunity for increased success in life.

The speech presented by Tony Morrison as she accepted her Nobel Prize was one full of repetition, alliteration, juxtaposition, and idioms intended to appeal to the emotions of the audience. The emphasis was that words can serve as weapons used by the strong against weak but that if they are treated with respect, this will not be commonplace. Morrison conveyed how important it was for society to be considerate and respectful of language. She initially used ethos by differentiating herself as the speaker, not the character, in an attempt to establish her credibility, while simultaneously choosing language that was appropriate for her audience in a successful manner.
In her speech she used the first person singular in phrases such as “the version I know” by which she separates herself as one single storyteller among many, creating distance between herself and the nature of her story.  She incorporates second person when she says “I don’t know… it is in your hands… it is your responsibility”. The use of “you” here refers directly to both Morrison’s critics and the younger people contained within her story. As she continues with her discourse, the term “you” is also applied to the world as a whole, wherein all of the people in the world are held responsible for language and keeping it alive.  She also incorporates third person in phrases such as “the blind woman” or “the old woman”, meaning to separate herself from the characters in her tale and solidify the role she plays as the storyteller. “They” is used once, as a slip into idiomatic speech, wherein she refers to younger people from the city who disapprove of Morrison and are “showing her up for the fraud they believe she is”. This part of the speech reveals a bit of hostility and takes on an accusatory tone, while still maintaining pathos and ethos.

Overall she molds rhetorical devices and utilizes point of view to inspire a love of language. While the rhetorical devices used were persuasive, it was the collective use of rhetorical devices and presentation that Tony Morrison displayed which appealed to emotions or reason on a more profound manner.

Gery, John, and Aldon Lynn Nielsen. “Black Chant: Languages Of African-American Postmodernism”. American Literature 70.4 (1998): 915. Web.
Gilyard, Keith, and Anissa Janine Wardi. African American Literature. New York: Pearson Longman, 2004. Print.
Povey, John F. “African Literature And American Universities”. African Studies Bulletin 9.2 (1966): 13. Web.
Scruggs, Charles, and Madelyn Jablon. “Black Metafiction: Self-Consciousness In African American Literature”. American Literature 70.1 (1998): 201. Web.
Selisker, Scott. “What Was African American Literature?”. African American Review 44.4 (2011): 717-719. Web.
Smith, Valerie, Lea Baechler, and A. Walton Litz. African American Writers. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1991. Print.
Warren, Kenneth W. What Was African American Literature?. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2011. Print.

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