Poet and writer Nikki Giovanni was born on June 7, 1943. In Knoxville, Tennessee. She is a prominent poet and writer who established Cincinnatis first Black Arts Festivals in 1967. She graduated with honors from Fisk University in 1967. Giovanni published her first book of poems, Black Feeling, Black Talk in 1968. She achieved a lot in her writing life. She established herself as a potential poet by winning many awards including a woman of the year from Ladies Home Journal in 1973. In recent years, she has produced new works of children Rosa (2005) Acolytes (2007). She works as a professor at St Joseph and Virginia Tech University. Her poems helped define the African-American voice. She was also a major force in the black art movement.
Feminism is a theory, which argues that legal and social restriction on females must be removed to bring equality of both sexes. Writing entails many forces such as styles, theories, and environmental inspiration. The forces are then categorized in afro-futurism, deconstruction, formalism, stylistic, Marxism, post-structuralism, feminism and psychoanalytic theories of literature. Since the paper aims at discussing how Giovanni is more of a poet than a feminist, it will address Giovannis ability to cut across many literary theories as opposed to the thought that she is only a feminist.
Deconstruction Theory Criticism
Deconstruction theory criticism is reflected in her poems. According to Jacques Derrida, the theory helps in criticizing something arriving at a new thought or perspective. In her poem Love, love is Said to be a commitment and responsibility where there is no fun. Love is a listening ear, laughing and asking questions no matter the age. She also goes ahead to say that love is you and me. Normally, love is defined in the dictionary as an intense feeling of affection towards another person or a deep abiding liking for something. It has existed since time immemorial, and many poets have written about love aesthetically making it appear as a new concept. In the poem Winter Poem, winter is portrayed as a lovely season that the persona enjoys (Blair 80). Winter is not a pleasing season. It is a cold season where people do not enjoy it at all. However, the persona in the poem enjoys and finds pleasure in it.
Afro-Futurismliterary Criticism Theory
Afro-futurismliterary criticism theory is seen in her poems. Dery (1994) coined the theory. He offered speculation about a world where the less race is normative. The theory comprises cultural production that imagines greater justice of black subjectivity in the future. Nikki Giovanni has addressed afro-futurism theory in the poem for Barbara Crosby she addresses Barbara Crosby that she is not responsible for defending the blacks (Bader 100). She goes ahead to say that the human race should engage in true issues of time like miniskirt rebellion and flour power, but, not engage in racial discrimination. Giovanni imagines about a blighted future with a united people who focus on the present challenges without minding racial differences.
Psychoanalyst school of thought takes an approach and critique Giovannis works. She writes different topics in different stages and times of her life. The theory has branched out from Sigmund Freud who explains that our thoughts are expressed in dreams in connection with the fears, achievements, and ambitions in our lives (Fowler 23). Giovanni has written love poetry which is in her collectionLove Poems (1997), written poems in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King Junior and Malcolm X (Giovanni 39). Black Feeling, Black Talk (1967) and black judgment (1968). Children verse spin a soft black song (1971), ego-tripping and other poems for young people (1973) and vacation time (1970). She wrote blues published after a battle with lung cancer. The poems offered thoughts on her battle with illness and the daily doses of harsh reality. Her different approaches in writing dictates that she wrote in response to what happened in her immediate environment. These daily activities provoked and inspired her thoughts to write.
Psychoanalysis school can overtake the feminist view at this juncture. Psychoanalysts can argue that the surrounding events which affected women provoked Giovanni as a woman to write challenges and experiences women face (Fowler 24). Giovanni is a woman, and it is factual for her to address matters that reveal what women go through. Such poems include; Life Cycles and All I Gotta Do.
Giovannis work of literature can be categorized in formalism school of thought. The theory maintains that a literary work contains certain intrinsic features and theory defined and addressed the specific qualities in a text. Each work is treated as its distinct piece, free from its immediate environment, era, and the author. Scholars in this school of thought pay attention to the distinct stylistic devices in a text. Form in literature refers to how a writer chooses to write or to say it (style). Form has to do with the physical appeal of a piece of art to the reader's eyes. Literature is a tool for communication, where a writer is not more vital than the message written. Giovannis works are informative educative and entertaining too (Cucinella 143). The poem You Came Too is stylistically written. Repetition of the line I came to the crowd and I went from the crowd is dominant in the poem leading to a rhythmical beauty. The lines emphasize how the persona met her love. The poem All I GottaDo addresses women issues, but its form includes repetition, rhyme and the use of non-standard English, which should be emphasized for it has brought forth the content of the poem.
Post-structuralism theory can be suitable in Giovannis text for a broader outlook in form and content. In this theory, everything is thrown into free play that includes the narrative and the author. Roland Barthes in his essay Death of the Author criticizes the readers tendency to consider aspects of the author's identity, political views, historical context, psychology, religion and ethnicity to distill meaning from a writers work (Tyson 197). Post-structuralism examines other sources of meaning. Barthes said that once an author is a dead interpretation becomes a collaborative process between the author and the audience. Giovannis works, therefore, should have multiple meanings and that she is not the prime source of the works semantic content. Readers can conclude that by Giovanni being a woman, there is a tendency of her writings being feministic. By reading her works without acknowledging her as the main creator a lot of meaning and structures can be derived in one text.
Marxist criticism can be used to critique Giovannis text. The school follows the process of thinking known as material dialectic. Marx asserts that the continuing conflict between the classes will lead to a revolution by oppressed people and forms groundwork for a new order in the society. He said there will always be a conflict between social classes which will be reflected in literature, art, and music. In Giovannis poem, They Clapped, the African continent, and its people are portrayed to be backward regarding development and constant begging for assistance.
Thinking Africa was just an extension of the black world, hearing of all of J.H. Clarke's lectures, supporting Nkrumah in Ghana and Nigeria in the war that there was once.The poem also reveals the other side of the coin on how some visitors pay a visit to the same land and meet Africa better than their expectation. The poem is a reflection of an ideal African society where the native subjects are the working lower class. The visiting upper class (the elite) are shocked to find out that Africa has revolutionized. It is not the Africa they heard addressed in their lecture rooms.
Feministic criticism is also included in Nikki Giovannis work as a poet. The theories primary task is to empower women in the male-dominated society. In the poem Mothers, Giovanni reveals the pleasures mothers go through in bringing up their families(Richter 1346). The persona who is the daughter admires her mothers sense of responsibility. Men are portrayed to be irresponsible and do not spend time with their family members. They arrive home late in the night when everyone is asleep. The wife has to wait in the dark for the husband.
Giovannis use of a daughter observing the mothers moves is relevant. Upon the daughter's maturity, she will have to play the same role. The role of a woman as passed out by the society. As for this essay, feminism is just one theory whereas the term poet is diverse. Nikki Giovanni has cut across all the fields of literary criticism, and that is why this essay emphasizes on her being a poet.
In conclusion, Nikki Giovanni is classified as a contemporary poet. A writer who is provoked and inspired by what surrounds her. Apart from feministic work of art; she has extensively exploited her writing skills in all fields. She is a celebrated writer. A feminist is just a degrading term for her.
Bader, Philip. African-American Writers. New York: Facts on File, 2004. Internet resource.
Blair, Melissa E. Revolutionizing Expectations: Women's Organizations, Feminism, and American Politics, 1965-1980., 2014. Print.
Cucinella, Catherine. Contemporary American Women Poets: An A-to-Z Guide. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2002. Print.
Fowler, Virginia C. Nikki Giovanni: A Literary Biography. Santa Barbara, Calif: Praeger, 2013. Print.
Giovanni, Nikki. Love Poems. Place of publication not identified: HarperCollins e-Books, 2014. Internet resource.
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