“ Dark Heathenism” of the American Novelist Ishmael Reed

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This book posits that Neo-HooDooism, an African Voodoo-derived aesthetic, evinces Ishmael Reed’s post-colonial transformation of the English language, colonialist discourses, and imperial cultural systems into discourses of self-empowerment and self-representation. As Reed’s return to ‘dark heathenism,” Neo-HooDooism represents an attempt to rediscover pre-slavery and pre-colonial African languages and oral traditions to remedy the impact of physical and linguistic displacement that African-Americans continue to experience in the United States. Reed’s nine novels are post-colonial writings whose production affects social, cultural, political, and historical contexts from African-American, American multi-ethnic, Caribbean, African, “Third-World,” and global perspectives. This book analyzes Neo-HooDooism as a post-colonial discourse/literary theory and a multi-cultural poetics through which Reed reconnects the African Diaspora to Africa within a global perspective. To accomplish this, an investigation is made into slavery, hegemony, language, place and displacement, race, gender, feminism, writing, post-coloniality, and theory as post-colonial themes that permeate Reed’s nine novels.


“To understand Ishmael Reed’s work, you need to know history. Not in the sense of what his work is representing, because like the best postmodern writing, Reed’s fiction, poetry, and even his essays represent themselves. As Samuel Beckett said famously in James Joyce’s proto-postmodern work, Finnegans Wake, what’s created is not about something but is something itself. Yet Joyce, formed in a world that was giving new privileges to both myth and psychology, remains most fundamentally a modernist. Reed is postmodern because he engages history without describing it. To understand how that is done, one must read Dr. Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure’s study at hand.” – (from the Preface) Dr. Jerome Klinkowitz, Distinguished Professor, University of Northern Iowa

In this book, Dr. Mvuyekure examines Reed’s ambitious literary enterprise of re-centering Africa globally through fashioning an Afro-based discourse and post-colonial poetics. Dr. Mvuyekure’s work is a multi-layered and inter-textual analysis of Reed’s nine novels and his effort to transform colonialist discourses into a post-colonial trope of individual and multi-cultural empowerment with a view to providing for diasporic Africans a validating medium of reconnection … and argues that for Reed, ‘Writin’ is indeed Fightin’.’” – Professor Rose Ure Mezu, Morgan State University

“No one before has shown how Reed’s purposeful use of language acquisition . . . constructs both a telling and showing narrative. Indeed, I am not sure such a critical trope has ever been constructed by a critic before – much like Reed’s narrative had never been accomplished before in English. Dr. Mvuyekure’s new book is a critical work by a major critic.” – Dr. Reginald Martin, Coordinator, African-American Literature Program, University of Memphis

Table of Contents

1 Neo-HooDooism: Post-Colonial Textual Resistance, African Diaspora Re-Connection, and Multicultural Poetics
2 The Free-Lance Pallbearers: Colonial Mimicry and “Adulteration of her Tongue”
3 Yellow Black Radio Broke-Down: “Scattering Arbitrarily” and Blowing like Charlie “Bird” Parker – HooDoo Be-Bop Western
4 Mumbo Jumbo: “Profaning [Western] Sacred Words” and “Beating Them on the Anvil of Boogie Woogie”
5 The Last Days of Louisiana Red: “The Wretched of the Earth”
6 Flight to Canada: HooDoo Writing as a “Pièce de Résistance”
7 The Terrible Twos and The Terrible Threes: Ecological Imperialism, Christmas Blues, Reggae, and Calypso
8 Reckless Eyeballing: Writing Post-Coloniality and African American Women’s Feminist Fictions
9 Japanese by Spring: Re/Writing American Orientalism and the Metonymic Function of Japanese and Yoruba

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