Bell Hooks (1952-) - Key Figures in Literary Theory

The Blackwell Guide to Literary Theory - Gregory Castle 2007

Bell Hooks (1952-)
Key Figures in Literary Theory

bell hooks (nee Gloria Watkins) was born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and was educated at Stanford University and the University of Wisconsin. She received her doctorate from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1983. After teaching at Yale University and Oberlin College, hooks began teaching at the City College of New York, where she is now a Distinguished Professor of English.

In her first book, Ain’t I a Woman (1981), hooks argues that sexism and racism have the same cause - white PATRIARCHY - against which feminists and anti-racist groups need to forge a shared position. The point is carried further in her most influential book, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center (1984). In this text, hooks systematically critiques mainstream European and US Feminism for neglecting the issue of racism and for refusing to see sexism as its corollary. She urges feminists to take up these issues if they hope to make substantial social changes. Throughout the 1980s and '90s, hooks published many volumes on issues concerning race, gender, representation, and art. In Talking Back (1989) and Black Look (1992), hooks emphasizes education as both an institutional impediment and a possible site of resistance to institutional power. She explores the margins of gender and sexual IDENTITY in Outlaw Culture (1994) and examines the interplay of sex and class in film in Reel to Real (1996). For hooks, the nature and direction of theory should tend towards a “passionate politics,” a point she argues in Feminism is for Everybody (2000). In the late 1990s, hooks wrote two memoirs and in 2000 issued a second edition of her groundbreaking Feminist Theory. She continues to write on a variety of topics including self-esteem and education among African Americans (Rock My Soul and Teaching Community, both in 2003) and black masculinity (We Real Cool, in 2004). hooks has also forayed into the field of feminist popular psychology with well-regarded books on love and relationships, including All About Love (2000).


hooks, bell. Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston: South End Press, 1992.

---- . Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1984, 2002.

---- . Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations. New York: Routledge, 1994.

---- . Talking Back: Thinking Feminism, Thinking Black. Boston: South End Press, 1989.