Raising the Dead: Readings of Death and (Black) Subjectivity by Sharon Patricia Holland

By Sharon Patricia Holland

Elevating the useless is a groundbreaking, interdisciplinary exploration of death’s relation to subjectivity in twentieth-century American literature and tradition. Sharon Patricia Holland contends that black subjectivity particularly is attached in detail to demise. For Holland, traveling via “the area of demise” offers us, as cultural readers, a nuanced and acceptable metaphor for figuring out what's at stake whilst bodies,discourses, and groups collide.Holland argues that the presence of blacks, local american citizens, girls, queers, and different “minorities” in society is, like loss of life, “almost unspeakable.” She offers voice to—or raises—the lifeless via her exam of works akin to the motion picture risk II Society, Toni Morrison’s novel cherished, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the useless, Randall Kenan’s A Visitation of Spirits, and the paintings of the all-white, male, feminist hip-hop band Consolidated. In demanding proven equipment of literary research via placing often-disparate voices in discussion with one another, Holland forges connections between African-American literature and tradition, queer and feminist theory.Raising the lifeless should be of curiosity to scholars and students of yank tradition, African-American literature, literary idea, gender reports, queer thought, and cultural reviews.

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Extra resources for Raising the Dead: Readings of Death and (Black) Subjectivity (New Americanists)

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As an example of such outrageous disrespect for boundaries, both discursive and national, I turn to two disparate genres—black film and anthropological theory—to launch a critique about the relationship among the dead, black subjects, and the nation. An old saying contends that you can tell the strength of a nation by the way it treats its poor; today, one can also ascertain this relative strength by examining the way a nation treats its dead. At the global level the dead appear before the public eye as a sign of another 18 Raising the Dead Covers from Time magazine: May 16, 1994 (left) and August 1, 1994 (right).

For archdeacon and critic Michael Perry this new location is aggravated by the unique intersection of place and purpose. ’’31 Because obscenity denotes aggressive and unruly behavior, death—and the dead, which are its consort—again becomes the entity the nation is unable to tame. Obscenity, whether vocalized or practiced, is also aligned with sexual mores and attitudes; discourse around death often finds itself coupled with sexual expression. Western concepts of death depict the event as a fissure of the living and the dead; as Arie`s asserts, ‘‘like the sexual act, death [beginning in the eighteenth century] was henceforth thought of as a transgression which tears man from his daily life, from rational society’’ (57).

Our job is not just to say that stereotypes of black women are perpetuated by (white) feminist readings but to discover those mechanisms that hold such conventions in place. For that inquiry we need an adequate past to dismantle. Beginning just such an inquiry in her earlier work, Hortense Spillers outlines a theory of the liminality of black women: Slavery did not transform the black female into an embodiment of carnality at all, as the myth of the black woman would tend to convince 42 Raising the Dead us, nor, alone, the primary receptacle of a highly-rewarding generative act.

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