After The End Of The World: Poetics, Time, And Black Experimental Writing

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"After the End of the World" is a study of the poetics of experimental writing, focusing on the work of W. E. B. Du Bois, Nathaniel Mackey, Suzan-Lori Parks and Kamau Brathwaite. By thinking form as a locus of political and conceptual contestation and transformation, I seek methods for conceiving politics in literature apart from its references or the identities of authors and characters. Writing in different genres, and with different political investments, each of these authors offers resources for re-imagining community as a project, for thinking the constitution of the self and political subject, and for conceiving politics and literary studies globally. Using a broad conception of literary experimentation as writing that departs from conventional forms and conventional thinking, I emphasize time of reading, among other times. Arguing that conceptions of time tend to be at the heart of political concerns throughout the sites of the African diaspora, this project challenges those notions of black writing that rest on the binary or oppression/resistance. I begin with an analysis of Du Bois' writing, especially his notions of doubleconsciousness and the veil, which I argue are related to writing and self-narration and thus to the problem of political and aesthetic representation. Parks' work similarly makes representation-especially historical representation-into a thematic question through which she problematizes the notion of a unitary "black experience." Specifically concerned with poetry, Kamau Brathwaite and Nathaniel Mackey specifically confront and contravene the legacy of the lyric voice in both the presentation and topics of their work. Brathwaite invents a shifting system of fonts, margins and a capacious first-person singular/plural to articulate a time and a "we" of the Caribbean and the diaspora. Mackey's work uses music, repetition and pronoun shifts to de-emphasize the traditional lyric "I" in favor of a poetics concerned with the limits of the here and now. Considering the ways these authors elaborate considerations that do not immediately map onto their presumed preoccupations, this project generates a means for conceiving the relationship between form and politics. It starts from the materiality of language and literature and then proceeds to politics and theory.
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