Cover image for Maya Angelou : a critical companion
Maya Angelou : a critical companion
Lupton, Mary Jane.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
xiv, 180 pages : portrait ; 24 cm.
Life and works of Maya Angelou -- Genre of autobiography -- I know why the caged bird sings (1970) -- Gather together in my name (1974) -- Singin' and swingin' and gettin' merry like Christmas (1976) -- Heart of a woman (1981) -- All God's children need traveling shoes (1986).
Reading Level:
1320 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3551.N464 Z7578 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Maya Angelou's five-volume autobiography transcends the autobiographical tradition, enriching it with contemporary experience, African American vision, and female sensibility. With these five books, Angelou has created a work of epic scope that covers a quarter century of American and African American history, from the beginning of World War II to the civil rights movement. These volumes stretch over time and place, from Arkansas to Africa, as Angelou grows from a confused child in a Southern town to an accomplished adult. Throughout her life journey depicted in the autobiographies, Angelou grapples with the issues of motherhood and race and reveals the struggles of being a black mother in America, extending her perspective in the fourth and fifth volumes to encompass an African setting.

A biographical chapter is enriched by an exclusive interview granted by Angelou, and a chapter on genre discusses Angelou's work in the context of the tradition of American and African American autobiography. A chapter is devoted to each of the five volumes of her serial autobiography--"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings"(1970), "Gather Together in My Name" (1974), "Singin' and Swingin'" and "Gettin' Merry Like Christmas"(1976), "The Heart of a Woman" (1981), and " All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes"(1986). The discussion of each novel features sections on narrative point of view, plot development, character development, thematic issues, style and literary devices, and an alternate critical approach from which to read the work. A complete bibliography of Angelou's work, plus a list of reviews of each work and selected secondary critical and biographical sources, complete the work. This companion is ideal for students, teachers, and others interested in Maya Angelou, the African American experience, and the craft of autobiography.

Author Notes

MARY JANE LUPTON is professor of English at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. A founder of Women: A Journal of Liberation , she was one of the co-editors of this Baltimore-based magazine from 1970 to 1984. The author of numerous articles on African American literature, she is co-author, with Emily Toth and Janice Delaney, of The Curse: A Cultural History of Menstruation (1976 and 1989). She is also author of a ground-breaking book, Menstruation and Psychoanalysis (1993).

Reviews 1

Choice Review

A thorough introduction to Angelou's five prose autobiographies, this title is clearly set up to give readers and researchers immediate access to critical information on the works themselves. After initial chapters on Angelou's life and on the genre known as autobiography, Lupton (Morgan State Univ.) moves through Angelou's autobiographies chronologically, devoting one chapter to each before ending with an extensive bibliography. In each chapter the author brings in important comparative figures in African American literature and in autobiography, discusses the work from appropriate critical positions, and defines a multitude of terms (which inexperienced researchers especially will find helpful). In addition, Lupton argues for Angelou's series as a new form of autobiography that extends traditional limitations. Experienced researchers will find that this argument and the abundance of ready material will more than make up for the repetition--the result of Lupton's largely successful attempt to make each chapter independent. Highly recommended for all academic libraries. J. A. Zoller Houghton College

Table of Contents

The Life and Works ofMaya Angelou
The Genre of Autobiography
I Know Why theCaged Bird Sings (1970)
Gather Together in My Name (1974)
Singing' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas (1976)
The Heart of a Woman (1981)
All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986)