New book: Shadow Archives

Just out from Columbia University Press is Shadow Archives: The Lifecycles of African American Literature by Jean-Christophe Cloutier.

This title may be of interest for its central focus on literary archives and in particular how Cloutier “provides a nuanced view of how archival methodology, access, and the power dynamics of acquisitions shape literary history”.

More from the publisher’s website:

Shadow Archives argues that the notion of the archive is crucial to our understanding of postwar African American literary history. Cloutier combines his own experiences as a researcher and archivist with a theoretically rich account of the archive to offer a pioneering study of the importance of African American authors’ archival practices and how these shaped their writing. Given the lack of institutions dedicated to the black experience, the novel became an alternative site of historical preservation, a means to ensure both individual legacy and group survival. Such archivism manifests in the work of these authors through evolving lifecycles where documents undergo repurposing, revision, insertion, falsification, transformation, and fictionalization, sometimes across decades. An innovative interdisciplinary consideration of literary papers, Shadow Archives proposes new ways for literary scholars to engage with the archive.”


Shadow Archives


Table of contents:

Introduction: “Not Like an Arrow, but a Boomerang,” or The Lifecycles of Twentieth-Century African American Literary Papers

1. Black Special Collections and the Midcentury Rise of the Institutional Collector

2. Claude McKay’s Archival Rebirth: Provenance and Politics in Amiable with Big Teeth

3. “At Once Both Document and Symbol”: Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and the Lafargue Clinic Photographic Archive

4. An Interlude Concerning the Vanishing Manuscripts of Ann Petry

5. “Too Obscure for Learned Classification”: Comic Books, Counterculture, and Archival Invisibility in Invisible Man

Coda. Disappointed Bridges: A Note on the Discovery of Amiable with Big Teeth