MAA News – Race & Gender in the Global Middle Ages Working Group

Friday, April 5, 2024 at 12pm-1:30pm EST
Matthew Vernon, Associate Professor of English
University of California, Davis
“Slumbering Legacies”

I will be sharing what I hope to be a chapter of my latest work. It explores the understudied legacies of W. E. B. Du Bois as a writer of “silly romances.” While this term is capacious in the time Du Bois uses it, I am particularly interested how he mobilizes the term as it relates to medieval romance. Throughout his work he returns to medieval romance as a form and a rhetorical maneuver that is meant to evoke a sharp contrast between accepted notions of Black and white subjectivities as well as historical trajectories. I will be positing that Du Bois is strategic in this deployment of romance to break down such clear binaries; at the same time he offers a model for a type of Black fiction that escapes the representational trap of political writing that was expected of him. Read in this way, we can see Du Bois as an antecedent to a contemporary move in African American literature away from the formative Civil Rights-era politics into a more opaque version of constructing Blackness.

Respondent: Dr. Cord J. Whitaker, Wellesley College

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