Abstract

This essay uses Anne Anlin Cheng’s concept of racial melancholy to analyze Wallace Stevens’s poem “Like Decorations in a Nigger Cemetery,” arguing that Stevens experiences the frustration of his ambition to be a representative poet when he finds himself confronted with an Africanist presence and its reminder of racial violence. As an instance of racial awareness in the context of white modernism, Stevens’s poem is exemplary as an immanent critique of the modernist ambition for the representative poet who can sustain celebrity. The essay argues that the poem models a kind of coldness that is calculated to make visible to readers the diffi culties for a white poet as he affectively approaches an imaginative encounter with racial violence against an Africanist presence.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1542-4286
Print ISSN
0093-3139
Pages
pp. 385-395
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-06
Open Access
No
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