Salamishah Tillet's Sites of Slavery brilliantly explores aesthetic and political appropriations of chattel slavery by “African American writers, artists, and intellectuals” in “the post–civil rights” era. Tillet theorizes how these figures address a contemporary “crisis of citizenship by revisiting the antebellum past” (3). The “democratic aesthetic” they enact “consider[s] the demands of a post–civil rights political project.” These culture workers face a political predicament somewhat different from that of “their antebellum predecessors who shaped their rhetoric around the demand for legal freedom” (4). Post–civil rights cultural productions carry “a lingering DuBoisean ‘twoness’ at the dawn of yet another century,” oscillating “between the pessimism of civic estrangement and the privilege of African American legal citizenship” (4). African American artists and intellectuals return to “sites”—texts, images, and locales—from the slave past in order to redefine America's “civic myths.” I will restrict my comments to pointing out how this study raises new questions...
On the Novel and Civic Myth
james edward ford iii is assistant professor of English at Occidental College. He is the author of Thinking through Crisis: Depression-Era Black Literature, Theory, and Politics (forthcoming) and currently working on a book titled “Hip Hop's Late Style: Liner Notes to an Aesthetic Theory.”
James Edward Ford; On the Novel and Civic Myth. Novel 1 November 2015; 48 (3): 490–494. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-3150493
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