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In the critical essays collected in Black Looks, bell hooks interrogates old narratives and argues for alternative ways to look at blackness, black subjectivity, and whiteness. Her focus is on spectatorship—in particular, the way blackness and black people are experienced in literature, music, television, and especially film—and her aim is to create a radical intervention into the way we talk about race and representation. As she describes: "the essays in Black Looks are meant to challenge and unsettle, to disrupt and subvert." As students, scholars, activists, intellectuals, and any other readers who have engaged with the book since its original release in 1992 can attest, that's exactly what these pieces do.
In the critical essays collected in Black Looks, bell hooks interrogates old narratives and argues for alternative ways to look at blackness, black subjectivity, and whiteness. Her focus is on spectatorship—in particular, the way blackness and black people are experienced in literature, music, television, and especially film—and her aim is to create a radical intervention into the way we talk about race and representation. As she describes: "the essays in Black Looks are meant to challenge and unsettle, to disrupt and subvert." As students, scholars, activists, intellectuals, and any other readers who have engaged with the book since its original release in 1992 can attest, that's exactly what these pieces do.
Originally published: Boston, Massachusetts: South End Press, 1992.
In The Black Body in Ecstasy, Jennifer C. Nash rewrites black feminism's theory of representation. Her analysis moves beyond black feminism's preoccupation with injury and recovery to consider how racial fictions can create a space of agency and even pleasure for black female subjects. Nash's innovative readings of hardcore pornographic films from the 1970s and 1980s develop a new method of analyzing racialized pornography that focuses on black women's pleasures in blackness: delights in toying with and subverting blackness, moments of racialized excitement, deliberate enactments of hyperbolic blackness, and humorous performances of blackness that poke fun at the fantastical project of race. Drawing on feminist and queer theory, critical race theory, and media studies, Nash creates a new black feminist interpretative practice, one attentive to the messy contradictions—between delight and discomfort, between desire and degradation—at the heart of black pleasures.
The Nobel Prize-winning author now gives us a learned, stylish, and immensely persuasive work of literary criticism that promises to change the way we read American literature even as it opens a new chapter in the American dialogue on race. Toni Morrison's brilliant discussions of the "Africanist" presence in the fiction of Poe, Melville, Cather, and Hemingway leads to a dramatic reappraisal of the essential characteristics of our literary tradition. She shows how much the themes of freedom and individualism, manhood and innocence, depended on the existence of a black population that was manifestly unfree--and that came to serve white authors as embodiments of their own fears and desires. Written with the artistic vision that has earned Toni Morrison a pre-eminent place in modern letters, Playing in the Dark will be avidly read by Morrison admirers as well as by students, critics, and scholars of American literature. "By going for the American literary jugular...she places her arguments...at the very heart of contemporary public conversation about what it is to be authentically and originally American. [She] boldly...reimagines and remaps the possibility of America." --Chicago Tribune "Toni Morrison is the closest thing the country has to a national writer." The New York Times Book Review
A collection of essays exploring black female self-representations across all media includes such authors as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker,and Lucille Clifton.
In childhood, bell hooks was taught that "talking back" meant speaking as an equal to an authority figure and daring to disagree and/or have an opinion. In this collection of personal and theoretical essays, hooks reflects on her signature issues of racism and feminism, politics and pedagogy. Among her discoveries is that moving from silence into speech is for the oppressed, the colonized, the exploited, and those who stand and struggle side by side, a gesture of defiance that heals, making new life and new growth possible.

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