Habitations of the Veil
Metaphor and the Poetics of Black Being in African American Literature
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: State University of New York Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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I want first to thank my family for their continuous love and support. My husband, Edwin B. Fisher, has supported me unfailingly throughout the long durée of this project. I lovingly dedicate this book to him and to my mother, Billie Rutledge Killens, who has always been my biggest fan...
Introduction: The Poetics of Being Black
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The Souls of Black Folk (1903), from which the epigraph to this introduction is drawn, is but one instance of Du Bois’s particular brand of historical narration and metaphorical innovation, wherein he proclaims unhesitatingly, in a voice that should evoke an unsettling ring of truth as we survey our own contemporary...
I. Inhabiting the Veil: On Black Being
1. Being and Metaphor
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There is more to be said about the concept of being, and particularly about the relationship between concepts of black being and metaphor, but first a fair amount of context is necessary to ensure our understanding of the discourses surrounding these concepts. This context will permit us to see...
2. African American Philosophy and the Poetics of Black Being
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African American literature has long articulated a philosophy of existence and experience, a fact witnessed by the frequency with which African American philosophers have turned to literary texts not in an aesthetic interrogation of the nature of the literary object, but in order to craft a...
II. The Poetics of Black Being Before and After Du Bois
3. Being and Becoming: The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African
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There are two remarkable and strikingly contrasting pieces—one visual and one inscribed, a duality of imagery and writing—that serve as equally significant paratexts to the 1789 classic, The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, a memoir that is widely considered...
4. Remnants of Memory: Metaphor and Being in Frances E. W. Harper’s Sketches of Southern Life
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If one project of contemporary literary theory is to submit the reading of nineteenth-century African American literature to a certain number of inquiries regarding metaphor and black being, then Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s Sketches of Southern Life (1872) serves as an exemplum...
5. A Technology of Modern Black Being: “The Conservation of Races” as a Critical Ontology of Race
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Little more than twenty-five years after Sketches of Southern Life, in the 1897 essay “The Conservation of Races,” W. E. B. Du Bois took up the project of ontological metaphorics exemplified in Harper’s work, and extended it toward the modernity of a new century. Even in our own day, modernity...
6. Habitations of the Veil: Souls
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Du Bois announces at the outset of The Souls of Black Folk that black being is conveyed metaphorically in the problematic, fragile, and, at times, capricious mediation of consciousnesses that prevails across the boundaries of race, language, and writing. It seems no accident, then, that the first word of the...
7. Symbolic Wrights: The Poetics of Being Underground
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It is fitting that Wright himself should provide the incipit for the work of this chapter. For in the epigraph above, drawn from his introduction to Horace Cayton and St Clair Drake’s Black Metropolis (1945), Wright is deeply concerned with a similar metaphorics of chaos and cosmos, apertures...
8. A Love Called Democracy: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man
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In the Prologue of Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel Invisible Man,1 the narrator encounters an old slave who speaks to him of love. An “old singer of spirituals,” the slave woman comes to him in a dream, a fissure “where time stands still” (7). Not unlike the eighteenth-century autobiographer Equiano...
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Page Count: 448
Publication Year: 2014