• Henry Louis Gates

    Writing, ‘Race’, and the Difference It Makes

    Part 1 

    ‘By the middle of the nineteenth centaury, ‘national spirit’ and ‘historical period’ had

    Become widely accepted metaphors within theories of the nature and function of literature that argued that the principal value in a ‘great’ work of literary art resided in the extent to which these categories were reflected in that work of art’. . Page .1577

    ‘The growth of canonical ‘national’ literatures was coterminous with the

    Shared assumption among intellectuals that ‘race’ was a ‘thing’, an ineffaceable quantity, which irresistibly determined the shape and contour of thought and feelings as surely as it did the shape and contour of human anatomy’. . Page 1578.

    Part 2

    The relation between ‘racial character’ and these sorts of  ‘characteristics’ has been inscribed through troops of race, lending to even supposedly ‘innocent’ descriptions of cultural tendencies and differences the sanction of God, biology or the natural order’. Page 1579.

    ‘Race has become a troop of ultimate, irreducible differences between cultures, linguistic group, or practitioners of specific belief systems, who more often than have fundamentally opposed economic interests. Race is the ultimate trope of difference because it is so very arbitrary in its application’. Page 1579.

    Part 3

    ‘So, while the Enlightenment is famous for establishing its existence upon the human ability to reason, it simultaneously used the absence and presence of ‘reason’ to delimit and the cultures and circumscribe the very humanity of the cultures and people of color which Europeans had been ‘discovering’ since the Renaissance’. Page 1581.

    Part 4

    ‘What I mean by citing these tow overworked terms is precisely this: how black s are figures in literature, and also how blacks figure, as it were, literature of their own making.’ Page 1582.

    ‘This system of signs is arbitrary .Key words, such as capacity, which became a metaphor for cranial size, reflect the predominance of ‘scientific’ discourse in metaphysics.’

     ‘Writing as the visible sign of Reason, at least since the Renaissance in Europe, had been consistently invoked in Western esthetic theory in the discussion of the enslavement and status of the black.’ Page 1582.

    Part 5

    ‘The trope of the talking book is not a trope of the presence of voice at all, but of its absence.’ Page 1586 . . .

    ‘Blacks, as we have seen, tried to write themselves out of slavery, a slavery even more profound than mere physical bondage’. Page 1586 . . .

    ‘It is the challenge of the black tradition to critique this relation of indenture, an indenture that obtains for our writers and for our critics’. . Page1587.


    Al-Zahara  Al-Janabi  and  Nadia Al- shamrookh