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Unfit for history: race, reparation and the reconstruction of American lyric

Cotton, Jess 2020. Unfit for history: race, reparation and the reconstruction of American lyric. Journal of American Studies 10.1017/S0021875820001358

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Abstract

This article explores how contemporary US black poetics evidences the entanglement of the history of lyric with the history of race. Through readings of the work of Claudia Rankine, Evie Shockley, Tyehimba Jess and Terrance Hayes, I make the case that this poetics situates American lyric within the violence of Reconstruction to imagine how Black Reconstruction may be enacted in cultural form. My contention is this poetics makes lyric 'unfit for history' and thus exposes the racialisation processes embedded in poetry’s modern life forms. I show how this poetics does not simply recuperate lyric subjectivity but presents a different model of subjectivity altogether, one that is rooted in a fugitive idea of blackness. I locate this lyric from the publication of Shockley’s The New Black (2011), as a reckoning with the failures of representation that were pronounced in the colour-blind politics of the Obama era and chart it to Hayes’ engagement with Trumpian politics in his sonnet sequence American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin (2018). I argue that this contemporary poetics, which makes its argument through a destabilisation of genre, unravels the racialisation processes embedded in the form of reading poetry that Virginia Jackson refers to as “lyricization.”

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: In Press
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Additional Information: This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License
Publisher: Cambridge University Press (CUP)
ISSN: 0021-8758
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 10 September 2020
Date of Acceptance: 10 September 2020
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2021 20:51
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/134774

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