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The literature often considered the most American is rooted not only in European and Western culture but also in African and American Creole cultures. Keith Cartwright places the literary texts of such noted authors as George Washington Cable, W.E.B. DuBois, Alex Haley, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, William Faulkner, Joel Chandler Harris, Herman Melville, Toni Morrison, and many others in the context of the history, spiritual traditions, folklore, music, linguistics, and politics out of which they were written.

Cartwright grounds his study of American writings in texts from the Senegambian/Old Mali region of Africa. Reading epics, fables, and gothic tales from the crossroads of this region and the American South, he reveals that America’s foundational African presence, along with a complex set of reactions to it, is an integral but unacknowledged source of the national culture, identity, and literature.

Keith Cartwright, assistant professor of English at Roanoke College in Roanoke, Virginia, was a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal.

"Cartwright's purpose is simple-to show the importance of African culture in United States literature, and he succeeds in fulfilling the essential goal. In so doing, his insights are often surprising and almost invariably interesting."—College Literature

"No matter how obvious the political demand to acknowledge the unacknowledged is, we need the research, the scholarly guidance, and the close, comparative readings that Cartwright offers in order to make acknowledgement more than a half-informed political gesture, to make it fully appreciative."—Zoltan Abadi-Nagy, Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






African American authors, Gothic Revival, Slavery, Africa in literature


American Literature

Reading Africa into American Literature: Epics, Fables, and Gothic Tales
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