Originally published Feb. 22, 2012

Some in the U.S., like the University of Chicago’s Kenneth Warren, believe contemporary African American literature does not exist because black American writers are no longer united against an all-encompassing struggle as they were before the 1970s.

However, Dwayne Tunstall, assistant professor of philosophy at Grand Valley State University, said African American literature is not only alive but also distinguishable in American society.

Tunstall discussed the literary genre yesterday during his Black History Month speech, “Has African American Literature Really Ended?” in which he criticized Warren’s book, “What Was African American Literature?”

“Warren thinks that African American literature is a bourgeois cultural artifact of a bygone era endorsed by people who have a specific set of cultural tastes and insecurities,” Tunstall said.

The professor refuted Warren’s message and said African American literature is neither encapsulated in nor limited to a particular time period but still exists as a tradition and will continue to exist as long as black Americans continue to write.

Furthermore, Tunstall said black literature should be preserved and considered an autonomous literary genre in the U.S.

“If you want to understand African Americans, study African Americans,” he said.

Warren made other points about African Americans in his book that Tunstall reported as misconceptions. Tunstall said Warren privileges class over race, therein ignoring the correlation between them.

“In my ideal world, I wouldn’t want to have to focus on people being discriminated against because of race,” Tunstall said. “However, in American society, race and class are so intertwined, and given the current social and political situation we find ourselves in, I’m afraid that people could misappropriate Kenneth Warren’s book and use it to justify doing things such as cutting or getting rid of African American literature.”

As a continuation of the Black History Month events, H. James Williams, the dean of the Seidman College of Business, will discuss institutional racism and the necessity of diversity in American businesses in his talk, “From Where I Stand.”

William’s lecture is today in the Kirkhof Center’s Pere Marquette Room from noon to 1 p.m. and is LIB 100 and US 201 approved.


Original publication: http://www.lanthorn.com/article/2012/02/faculty_talk_african_american_literature_diverse_businesses