Major Publications

bearing_witness                                Bearing Witness to African American Literature: Validating and Valorizing Its Authority, Authenticity, and Agency (Wayne State University Press, 2012)

“Professor Bell’s extensive corpus will cause a great deal of discussion, as it should. The purpose of this collection is to provoke, and African American literary studies needs more scholarhsip that challenges the status quo” Darryl Dickson-CarrAssociate Professor of English at Southern Methodist University

“One of the most distinguished critic-theorists of African American literature and culture takes an assessment of his prolific writing career in this collection of interdisciplinary lectures and essays; Bearing Witness to African American Literature, as a result, offers a rich inimitable feast of Bernard Bell’s project concerning the time-honored saga of African American life and thought. For a range of ongoing critical inquiries in the field, Bell’s work is bracingly indispensable.” Hortense J. Spillers, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Chair in English at Vanderbilt University

the contemporary african american novel The Contemporary African American Novel: Its Folk Roots and Modern Literary Branches (University of Massachussetts Press, 2004)

“This is a major achievement by a major scholar.” Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University

“A masterful performance, tremendously impressive as a work of literary criticism and theory, historical scholarship, and cultural study. . . .It will become, without question, the standard work in the field, a stimulating source of critical insight and a valuable reference tool – one that everyone who writes about or teaches African American literature will need (and will be eager!) to own.” William E. Cain, Wellesley College

“Absolutely essential to the teaching of African American literature.” Trudier Harris, UNC at Chapel Hill

“Bell’s brilliant new work is a history of the novel that demonstrates the intellectual breadth of that tradition . . . Evident throughout is the author’s meticulous thoroughness in clear and precise language that makes it a text no serious student of African American fiction can avoid.” Nellie McKay, University of Wisconsin, Madison


  • American Library Association Selected Book, One of the Best of the Best from the University Presses
  • College Language Association Creative Scholarship Award
  • Choice Outstanding Academic Book of the Year
  • American Book Award


the contemporary african american novel1 The Contemporary African American Novel: Its Folk Roots and Modern Literary Branches (Reprint by the most prestigious academic press in China with a Mandarin introduction by Vice Dean Zhu Gang, 2006)
                                                                                                                 the afro american novel and its tradition The Afro-American Novel and Its Tradition (University of Massachusetts  Press 1987)

“the definitive book in the field….an impressive work, by an impressive literary scholar.” Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University

“It sets the standard that future critics will be obliged to meet, and establishes analytical terms and relationships that others will have to engage, challenge, and expand upon.” William E. Cain, American Quarterly, March 1989

“the standard study in the field….a necessary volume for students of black fiction on all levels.” Choice, May 1988


  • College Language Association Creative Scholarship Award
chinabook The Afro-American Novel and Its Tradition (Mandarin trans. Jie Liu, et al. Bejiing, PRC: American Center for Educational Exchange, 2000)
the folk roots of contemporary afro-american poetry The Folk Roots of Contemporary Afro-American Poetry (Broadside Press, 1974)

“…a valuable analysis and overview of 20th century Afro-American aesthetics and artistic achievement. The writing is scholarly, judicious, and admirably clear.” Choice, June 1975

modern and contemporary afro-american poetry  The Modern and Contemporary Afro-American Poetry (Allyn and Bacon, 1972)
Clarence_Major and his art  Clarence Major and His Art : Portraits of an African American Postmodernist ed. Bernard W. Bell, (University of North Carolina Press, 2001)

“An excellent collection of instigating essays that present valuable debates . . . about the changing nature of contemporary African-American writing and disputatious views on the subject of the postmodern.  With the inclusion of Major’s poetry, prose, and paintings (many of which are not available in other books), this collection will prove of real interest to the widest range of readers and scholars.”  Aldon Lynn Nielsen, Loyola Marymount University

w.e.b. dubois on race and culture  W. E. B. Du Bois on Race and Culture eds. Bernard W. Bell, Emily Grosholz, and James Stewart, (Routledge Press, 1996)

“Professors Bell, Grosholz, and Stewart have assembled essays of impressive range and depth, admirably framing Du Bois’ historic contributions to culture, philosophy, politics, and literature.  This collection should be widely read and discussed for its success in underscoring the continuing and compelling relevance of W. E. B. Du Bois as a profound thinker, uncompromising advocate of human rights, and edifying prophet.”
David Levering Lewis, Pulitzer Prize-winner of Du Bois biography

call&response  Call & Response : The Riverside Anthology of the African American Literary Tradition gen. ed. Patricia L. Hill; eds. Bernard W. Bell, Trudier Harris, William J. Harris, R. Baxter Miller, & Sondra A. O’Neale (with Horace A. Porter), (Houghton Mifflin, 1997)
contemporary literature in the african diaspora  Contemporary Literature in the African Diaspora eds. Bernard W. Bell and Olga Barrios, (University of Salamanca Press, 1997)


Other Selected Publications

“Booker T. & W. E. B.: The Authority and Authenticity of African American Double Consciousness,” Black Nationalists: Reconsidering Du Bois, Garvey, Booker T. & Nkrumah, eds. S. Okechukwu Mezu and Rose Ure Mezu (Black Academy Press, 1999), 133-144.

“The Liberating Literary and African American Vernacular Voices of Gayl Jones,” Comparative Literature Studies. 36.3 (1999): 247-258.

“The Dual Tradition of African American Fiction: An Interpretation,” Encarta (CD-ROM), Afropaedia, eds. Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (1999, 15 pages).

“The Quest for Identity in the African American Novel,” Estudios de Literatura en Lengua Inglesa del Siglo XX (4), eds. Pilar Abad Garcia, Jose Manuel Barrio Marco, Jose Maria Ruiz (Valladolid, Espana: Servicio de Apoyo a la Ensenanza, Universidade de Valladolid, 1998), 29-38.

“Saline Consciousness and Hybrid Identities: Race, Gender and Class Issues in Contemporary Literature in the African Diaspora,” Contemporary Literature in the African Diaspora (Salamanca, Spain: Department of English Philology, 1997), 11-17.

“Nails, Snails, and Puppy-Dog Tails: Black Male Stereotypes in the Fiction of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Terry McMillan,” Contemporary Literature of the African Diaspora (Salamanca, Spain: Department of English Philology, 1997), 67-74.

“Genealogical Shifts in Du Bois’s Discourse on Double Consciousness as the Sign of African American Difference” in W. E. B. DuBois on Race and Culture (NY: Routledge, 1996), 87-108.

“Malcolm, Martin, and the Black Jeremiadic Cry of Our Cities,” The World and I. (July, 1993) 453-63.

“Beloved: A Womanist Neo-slave Narrative; or Multivocal Remembrances of Things Past,” African American Review (Spring 1992), 7-15; rpt. Critical Essays on Toni Morrison’s Beloved, ed. Barbara H. Solomon (Boston: Twayne, 1998), 166-176; rpt. Modern Critical Interpretations: Toni Morrison’s Beloved, ed. Harold Bloom (Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House, 1999), 57-68; rpt. Bloom’s Guides: Toni Morrison’s Beloved, ed. Harold Bloom (Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House, 2004), 53-57.