Critical Context

My Amputations fits well into Major’s body of postmodernist writing. Major is perhaps best known for his novel All-Night Visitors (1969), which shares many of the themes surrounding African American male identity found in this novel. Major experiments with unusual narrative techniques, blending prose and poetry. He is also interested in creatively adapting genre forms, as in the detective novel Reflex and Bone Structure (1975). Major’s background as a painter is often seen in his novels. My Amputations contains many references to European painters of the modern tradition.

Major is recognized as a leading experimenter in black writing and has been critically appraised as an innovative artist. In novels such as All-Night Visitors, No (1973), and Emergency Exit (1979), the author uses a combination of prose experiments to present an alternative view of the African American experience. His work is commonly appreciative of the black vernacular tradition. Through the daring use of sex, nonlinear plots, and unreliable narrators, Major confirms the postmodernist examination of fiction’s accepted roles in society. Major’s work rejects the assumption that language offers a logical means by which one might understand the world. In the end, the text represents nothing outside itself.

Major is an African American poet and editor of the Dictionary of Afro-American Slang (1970). He is often cited as one of the founding theoreticians of the 1960’s new black aesthetic movement. As editor of a poetry anthology, The New Black Poetry (1969), Major stressed the importance of African American poetic identity in collectively attempting to revolutionize social and political relationships through creation of a brotherhood of black consciousness. This African American cultural emphasis and heightened sense of the positive black identity was shared by other black writers such as Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Addison Gayle, Jr., and Ishmael Reed.