A friend in the English department was talking about how they used African American literature in a fairly literal-minded way to promote anti-racism, like using Rankine's Citizen as though it were just a list of microagressions, with no poetic aspirations beyond that. Only the white canon, then, gets nuanced literary readings. My friend is younger than I am, and tends to take the typical left-wing positions, so coming from her this critique seemed accurate, not motivated by any other agenda.
My own department keeps losing US Latinas. There are three women who have left, a Dominican, a Puertorican, a Chicana, plus another Latina woman in the library who was the bibliographer for Spanish. Now we'll have a diversity committee, but a less diverse department.
Reading Rankine without "nuanced literary readings" would not only miss the literary and aesthetic implications of her work but also reduce its analysis of microaggressions to sociology. When I taught a course on her work (and Vahni Capildeo's) a few years ago, it was in fact precisely the literary analysis that provided a foundation for understanding how the work explores microaggressions – which are, after all, stories that require interpretation for their implications to be understood.
And in my course this spring on Toni Morrison's early novels (her first four, up to but not including Beloved), literary considerations again provided a foundation for understanding the complexities of her explorations of race and gender.
As always, the separation of literary readings from political issues reduces the nuances of both.
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