Saturday, April 26, 2008

Ethnic Literature: A Criticism

John M. Reilly writes in the essay "Criticism of Ethnic Literature: Seeing the Whole Story" that " while the assumption of ethnic literature directly reflects ethnic life denies significance to literary form, on the other hand, the simple equation of ethnic literature with other varieties of literature will sever the vital relationship of literature to life." Controversial as this statement may be, Reilly doesn't shy away from his assertions. He goes on further to write that "ethnic literature is not so designated because of the authors' race, color, creed, national origin or associations." Taken together, these statements point to a wholly critical view of ethnic literature as we've come to understand it in our class discussions.

I find Reilly interesting because it is one of the few essays I've read that isn't afraid to be critical of the ethnic literature genre. Certainly, there is a plethora of material that supports the study and writing of ethnic literature, such as Achebe or Ngugi, to name a few. While I don't know that I necessarily agree with everything that Reilly has to write, he raises interesting questions about what defines certain genres of literature. In particular, he points out typical "scheme" that serves as a map for the writing of ethnic literature, which, in Reilly's view, makes ethnic literature easier to interpret.

While I am intrigued by Reilly's criticisms of ethnic literature, it seems dangerous and ignorant to declare that all ethnic literature fits into a particular, unoriginal pattern. He neglects to recognize works that have stood out in the field of ethnic literature, or work that has stirred up the field of ethnic literature, and he limits his discussion to ethnic literature within the American landscape. Ultimately, however, I feel like it was important for me to read this essay, if only for the exposure it gave me to an alternative point of view when it comes to ethnic literature.


Anonymous said...

Nice response, Emily. Glad to see you doing some reading and thinking on your own on this issue.

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