We give you the scuttlebutt on academic journals—aiding you in selecting the right journal for publication—in reviews that are sometimes snarky, sometimes lengthy, always helpful. Written by Princeton University graduate students and Wendy Laura Belcher.
For those with articles that have something substantial and innovative to say about canonical and non-canonical African American Literary texts; this journal is an especially important outlet for research on Toni Morrison. (FR)
African American Review is one of the top journals in African American Literary Studies. The journal is field based, with an almost exclusive focus on U.S. Black Literature. Although the journal sometimes branches out into international texts or concerns, these exceptions generally anchor their comparative, archival, historical, or formal approaches within or in the context of the U.S. For example, there is an article on Ralph Ellison and John Milton, and there is also an article on the dilemma of Négritude in relation to James Baldwin. AAR can be interdisciplinary, but is largely focused on literary studies. Most of its departures from literary studies are focused on alternative texts, cultural studies, or theoretical innovations, which are then (or later) used to read literary texts. (For example, the article “‘Maybe I’ll be a Poet, Rapper’: Hip-Hop Feminism and Literary Aesthetics in Push” by Brittney Cooper (of @ProfessorCrunk fame), or “Contemporary Sorry Songs: Traces of Mourning, Lament, and Vulnerability in Hip Hop” by Joseph Winters, both of which show the intersections of the literary with the musical.)
AAR is unique because while it is focused on describing and engaging canonical and non-canonical works, and it is also a space to expand ideas of what the canon could be. Thus the journal functions as a space for debating and discussing what was—and is—an African American Literature, as well as what Black Literary Studies it could or should be. In AAR, “lesser known” authors are written about, and this gives a capacious sense of African American Literature, especially since these articles are featured in both special issues and in regular issues. Thus it is not surprising to see articles on Nella Larsen, Spike Lee, Toni Morrison, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Ishmael Reed published alongside articles on Sutton Griggs, Ntozake Shange, William Gardner Smith, and Sun Ra (Issue 45.1-2).
From 2006-2014, these issues can be split into three categories. In one category, the sections are inquiry based, and have to do with issues of method, aesthetics, and field representation (by which I mean what is being represented in the field, what can be represented, what ought to be represented). These special issues include: Hip Hop and the Literary, Black Performance, Representing Segregation, and Post-Soul Aesthetics.
There were also author based special sections, such as special issues on James Baldwin, Anna Julia Cooper, Chester Himes, and Paul Laurence Dunbar. In the third category, the special issues are about specific interventions, usually represented by an important and often field-ramifying book: Curse of Caste Special Issue and an issue that featured an MLA Roundtable about Kenneth Warren’s What Was African American Literature?
From 2006-2014, there well over 200 articles. This means that in 25 issues, more than eight articles were published per issue, on average. Some issues featured more than a dozen articles, some as few as six. The issues that encompassed two seasons (for example, 2-3 Summer/Fall) had the most articles, which is expected. What characterizes the articles, as I mentioned earlier, is an attention to a broad range of texts, from canonical authors like Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Charles Chesnutt, Nella Larsen, Ralph Ellison, Robert Hayden, Ishmael Reed, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Langston Hughes, to more contested writers like Nikki Giovanni, Henry Box Brown, Jewelle Gomez, and Chester Himes, to much appreciated but understudied authors like Pauline Hopkins, William Wells Brown, and Angelina Weld Grimké, and Jessie Redmon Fauset.
The poetry section publishes an astonishing number of poets. Each issue contains at least three or four poems, and features major poets like Elizabeth Alexander, Bruce Alford, and Léopold Senghor, to younger or less embedded poets. The poems tend to be one or two pages long, with some four page poems.
The published fiction is generally quite short, and like the poetry, features a huge number of authors, both known and less known. The fiction is generally excerpted or experimental short fiction.
This is a sporadically appearing section, but is quite important, especially in regards to the field of African American Literature. From 2006-2014, there were eight forgotten manuscript publications articles in 25 issues (32% of the issues featured a forgotten manuscript).
The book reviews mostly focused on critical studies in African American literature. AAR featured some negative reviews, which I did not expect, given what I often hear about the nature of book reviews and scholarly engagement. (Kinohi Nishikawa’s review of Justin Gifford’s Pimping Fictions: African American Crime Literature and the Untold Story of Black Pulp Publishing is a prime example.)
by Francisco Robles
Word count: 6,000-8,500
Articles per year: 30-40
Cite Style: MLA
Disciplines: American Literature, African American Literature, African American Studies, Ethnology, Folk Studies
Trends in volumes 20 to 44 (1997-2010):
40 articles on Toni Morrison
20 on Zora Neale Hurston
9 on James Baldwin; 9 Ralph Ellison; 9 Charles Johnson; 8 Pauline Hopkins
7 Gloria Naylor; 7 Nella Larsen; 7 Frederick Douglass; 7 James Weldon Johnson
6 Harriet Jacobs; 6 August Wilson; 6 Chester Himes; 6 Ishmael Reed
5 Langston Hughes; 5 Paule Marshall
4 Amiri Baraka; 4 Gwendolyn Brooks; 4 Colson Whitehead
3 Michelle Cliff; 3 on Danzy Senna