The Sterling Brown Blues: Beyond Poetry

While we have read some timely prose this semester, it is still difficult to grasp the notion that these poets did more to shape society than with their poetic works.  Fahamisha Brown wrote an article detailing the unpoetic work of Sterling Brown which led to significant shifts in studying literature.  The article, aptly titled: “And I owe it all to Sterling Brown: The Theory and Practice of Black Literary Studies,” reveals that Sterling Brown “was “reading” American culture through the lens of race before it was fashionable.”  Brown’s poetry that we have read, “Ma Rainey,” “Southern Road,” and “Slim in Atlanta,” show the poet’s uplifting of “folk and vernacular expression as art.”  Fahamisha Brown argues that “as an intellectual ancestor of contemporary Black Literary Studies, Brown has given us a vocabulary and a methodology.”  It is interesting to note how strong of an effect this poet had outside of composing poetry; Sterling Brown is a truly influential and monumental poet of the modern era.

As a poet he elevated the struggle of the African American folk tradition; Sterling Brown, in the world of academia, forged a place and way for African American’s to join the literary conversation.  Fahamisha Brown asserts that “Sterling Brown simply read everything.”  This statement shows the depth of the poet’s knowledge and also makes known that the racial lens was applied to all literature, and was not strictly focused upon African American literature.  Even further than that, Brown was limited to race, as he examined “such categories as genre, region, and gender” and even “the then-new world of film as well.”  It is safe to say that Brown ran the gambit of expression and placed the African American on the spectrum of literary studies.  The author strongly claims that “Brown examines Black and white authored texts by both male and female writers.”  Sterling Brown, through extensive research, reading, and writing, was able to give a voice to the African American of his time and the future.

It’s Mr. Brown

Brown, Fahamisha Patricia. “And I owe it all to Sterling Brown: The Theory and Practice of Black Literary Studies.” African American Review 31.3 (1997): 449-453. International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance with Full Text. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.

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