In light of Brooks's midcareer decision to place her gifts and her enormous energy at the service of her people and her community, one would presume that the bulk of the criticism of her work would take a SOCIOLOGICAL approach. And indeed considerable attention has been given to her extensive presentation of the lives of African-Americans in Chicago and to her analysis, both explicit and implicit, of the social and HISTORICAL causes of the conditions she addresses in such poems as "Southeast Corner" and "We Real Cool," as well as many others throughout her career.
But it is a testimony to the greatness of those gifts, and to the integrity with which she employed them, that equal emphasis has been placed on a FORMALIST analysis of her poetry (as, for example, by Gladys Williams: "The Ballads of Gwendolyn Brooks" in Mootry and Smith). Since so many of her poems, early and late, are character studies ("The Bean Eaters" is one classic instance among many such portraits in her work), critics have also been responsive to the PSYCHOLOGICAL dimension of her work. And they have addressed themselves as well to the treatment of GENDER issues both in Brooks's poetryin "The Mother" and elsewhereand in her novel: see, for instance, Harry B. Shaw: "Maud Martha: The War with Beauty," in Mootry and Smith.