This paper starts from the premise that norm, in the sense of a prescriptive tradition based on a set of standards deriving from past practices and regulating future ones, is the result of an initial creative gesture; in other words, first there was creativity and creativity became the norm. Based on this premise, the paper looks at some of the earliest African-American pieces of writing to trace the itinerary from creativity to norm, thus witnessing the birth of the African-American literary tradition. To this end, the paper analyses the first published Black narrative and identifies the trope of the talking book as illustrating that original gesture which, by creatively incorporating the norm, marks the beginning of a new tradition. Then the paper follows subsequent early Black narratives and identifies the creative transgression of the norm illustrated by the Middle Passage as the process by which the new norm is established.
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