Now that it is officially Summer and the semester has finally come to a close, I figured it would be appropriate to finally update this blog. In addition to constructing a fence, new bookcases (with the help of my father Leroy) and some raised beds in the backyard, I have been doing a good bit of writing and reading for my dissertation. In the next week, I will be wrapping up revisions on my William Carlos Williams chapter and then moving to complete an in-progress draft of a chapter that looks to the early works of W.E.B. Du Bois.
As the semester was wrapping up, I began conducting research on Du Bois which led me to some really interesting recent work that I cannot recommend highly enough. I won’t go fully down the rabbit hole, but I wanted to shout out some texts that have been generative for my thinking over the last few months. Go check out Nahum Chandler’s X: The Problem of The Negro as a Problem for Thought, Christina Sharpe’s In The Wake: On Blackness and Being, Fred Moten’s Black and Blur, and Charles Mills’s Black Rights/White Wrongs: The Critique of Racial Liberalism. I see each of these texts taking up, amending, extending and transforming a number of the concerns and innovations in Du Bois’s considerable body of work and they affirm his continuing relevance today.
While The Souls of Black Folks is, for many, Du Bois’s most familiar text, my chapter focuses on his turn of the century social scientific writings and their relations to two of his most fascinating early texts: his biography John Brown (1909) and Darkwater: Voices From Within the Veil (1920). In these text questions concerning agency, historical determination and racial violence intersect with aesthetic and scientific discourses to produce innovative hybrid literary forms that anticipate recent work in docu-poetics and experimental fiction.
For a particularly rich example of the ways Du Bois fused art, politics and social science check out this Hyperallergic article by Allison Meier that briefly details Du Bois’s work for the Exhibit of American Negros at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900. I know that there are plans for these images to be published as a book sometime soon and I will make a post when it comes out.