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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Ramcat Reads #13


DeVito, Chris, ed. Coltrane on Coltrane: The John Coltrane Interviews.  Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2010.

            A recommended prelude or  follow-up to viewing John Scheinfeld's fine documentary CHASING TRANE (2017).

Foley, Barbara.  Jean Toomer: Race, Repression and Revolution.  Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014. 

            A critical reading of  Jean Toomer: Race, Repression and Revolution enables one to gain remarkable insights about Toomer (1894  -1967), his complex personality, and his canonical masterpiece Cane (1923); it invites one to reassess Toomer's location in American literary history before, during and after the fabled Harlem Renaissance.  In addition, the more one weighs the nature of Foley's argument and her rhetorical gestures, the more aware one becomes of  how literary study, over the last thirty years, has morphed into cultural study.  The consequences are not always felicitous. For example, Foley's extensive use of archival materials to sharpen our focus on Toomer's biography is superb, because it compels us to reject hasty or reductive conclusions. The connections she makes between biographical facts and mimesis or literary representation are indeed persuasive, despite the probability that those connections are, to borrow Louise Rosenblatt's terms, more efferent than  aesthetic. The lack of felicity is mainly the result of Foley's using Fredric Jameson's The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (1981) as a methodological guide to reading.  That choice opens a neo-Lacanian casket of possibilities and makes Foley's exposition stylized rather than conversational. Reading as reading dominates one's engagement of  Jean Toomer: Race, Repression and Revolution .

Fulton, Sybrina and Tracy Martin. Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin.

New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2017.

African Americans have no monopoly on faith, but the historical experiences of black folks in the United States have endowed them with the ability to absorb and deploy faith with amazing grace.  Fulton and Martin are exemplars of that fact. In Rest in Power, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin speak from the depths of something that must pulsate within people who have lost a loved one as a result of racially motivated violence.  Faith is what  we usually call the emotional space or place from which they speak.  As poised as scholars who know their subject matter intimately, they teach us a great deal about the qualities of individual grief.  Fulton and Martin have created a powerful tool for continuing the legacy of their son.  They have blended love, grief, and pain-forged equanimity into a book of alternating witnessing of the mother and the father. The mother's answers to each of  the father's questions are definitive.  The magnanimous control of grief is transformed into a weapon.  Trayvon Martin's  parents teach us what must be done if we are to ever rest in power.

Harvey, William R. Principles of Leadership: The Harvey Leadership Model.  Hampton, VA: Hampton University Press, 2017.

            Convinced that able leadership has the potential to  "ultimately, change the course of the universe" and that his leadership model is valid, Harvey offers his ten principles of leadership "to any serious student or practitioner of higher education and to leaders in almost any organization or institution"(217).  Harvey doesn't discriminate among traits, strategies, and outcomes, but lumps them together as 10 "principles" (vision, work ethic, team building, management, fiscal conservatism, academic excellence, innovation, courage, fairness, and results).  President of Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) since July 1, 1978, Harvey avoids contextualizing his leadership in reflections on American history or the  public histories of American higher education.  Brief references to books and articles on management and selective mentioning of iconic figures expose a paucity of analysis; they serve to embellish Harvey's self-fashioning and estimation of himself as a role model for current and future leaders of HBCUs.  All things considered, Principles of Leadership has greater merit as an example of autobiography and identity politics than as a treatise on contemporary leadership.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.                   May 4, 2017

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