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Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars

Loose Canons book cover

Loose Canons is a collection of previously published essays that deal with the broader aspects of multiculturalism. Mr. Gates, in conversational form, offers ways to transcend partitions that are fostered through nationalism, racism, and sexism. His key to bridging these divisions is to change education and allow African American literature into America's mainstream literature. For instance, acknowledging the significance of Black slave narratives is necessary for all Americans since this literature is part of the national culture. In this case, changes in curricula at universities will foster multiculturalism and cultural identities.


On African-American Literary Tradition
"Writing as the visible sign of Reason, at least since the Renaissance in Europe, had been consistently invoked in Western aesthetic theory in the discussion of the enslavement and status of the black." (Loose Canons, 57)

"There is a long history of resistance to (white) theory in the (black) tradition. Unlike almost every other, the Afro-American literary tradition was generated as a response to allegations that its authors did not, and could not create literature, considered the signal measure of a race's innate "humanity." The African living in Europe or in the New World seems to have felt compelled to create a literature not only to demonstrate that blacks did indeed possess the intellectual ability to create a written art, but also to indict the several social and economic institutions that delimited the "humanity" of all black people in Western cultures." (Loose Canons, 75)

"The particular burden of scholars of Afro-American studies is that we must often ressurect the texts of our tradition before we can even begin to analyze them." (Loose Canons, 122)

On the Future
"The society we have made simply won't survive without the values of tolerance. And cultural tolerance comes to nothing without cultural understanding. In short, the challenge facing America in the next century will be the shaping, at long last, of a truly common public culture, one responsive to the long-silenced cultures of color. If we relinquish the ideal of America as a plural nation, we've abandoned the very experiment that America represents." (Loose Canons, 176)

On Literary Canons
"Cultural pluralism is not, of course, everyone's cup of tea. Vulgar cultural nationalists -- like Allan Bloom or Leonard Jeffries -- correctly identify it as the enemy. These polemicists thrive on absolute partitions: between "civilization" and "barbarism," between "black" and 'white," between a thousand versions of Us and Them. But they are whistling in the wind." (Loose Canons, xvi)

"None of us is naïve enough to believe that the "canonical" is self-evident, absolute, or neutral." (Loose Canons, 32)

© 1992, Oxford University Press. Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.


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