Download Ashes Taken for Fire: Aesthetic Modernism and the Critique by Kevin M. Bell PDF

By Kevin M. Bell

For years critics have held that literary modernism used to be either apolitical and solipsistic. whereas the previous cost started to crumple with the recession of recent feedback, the latter has grown in energy as a lead-in to the declare that postmodernism is apolitical and solipsistic. by contrast backdrop, Kevin Bell surveys fiction via Conrad, Woolf, Faulkner, West, Ellison, and Himes to teach that modernism is a sharply philosophical archive. In Ashes Taken for fireplace, he argues that modernism exposes cultural identities comparable to blackness as mere concepts of conforming the self into belonging. Bell’s exam pursues the query of nonidentity via sound, silence, and gesture, treating those as applied sciences of interpreting the contradictions, breakdowns, and erasures that represent subjectivity. His research of those texts finds that the classy investigations they practice undo the common sense of cultural identification, devastating such reductive rubrics as “race” or “gender.” Ashes Taken for fireplace explores the event of blackness in either its chromatic/ocular and “racial” registers. For whereas blackness operates as a customary figural expression for disorientation, its possibly “voided” personality is reprojected during this paintings as an immanent strength of danger and experimentation. Kevin Bell is assistant professor of English and comparative literary reports at Northwestern college.

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What ideas do his polished and so curiously insincere sentences awaken in the simple minds of the big children who people those dark and wandering places of the earth? What meaning can their rough inexperienced souls find in the elegant verbiage of his pages? What excitement—what forgetfulness—what appeasement? Mystery! Is it the fascination of the incomprehensible—is it the charm of the impossible? (296–97) Providing a recontaining boundary to the open spillage of disconnected discourses, Singleton’s excursion into the literary momentarily smooths over the disquieting babble surrounding him, offering an escape into an ordered structure of meaning and value.

In other words, the category disintegrates in the moment that the designation is applied to a being who does not answer to it. Such failure results not from anything so determinate as a rejection or refusal of power’s terms, but merely from a complete absence of need for recognition of any kind; from the absence of any inclination to identify “properly” as one thing or another. The totality of such disengagement may seem impossible—until the cultural and political implications of Adorno’s supposedly purely “aesthetic” problem of blackness are acknowledged and worked through.

The Negro constituted a marginally human group, a collection of things of convenience for use and/or eradication. This was, of course, no idle exercise in racial or moral schemata since it directly applied in a most extraordinary way. Slave labor in the New World . . 41 The practical politics of racialization, the deproblematizing of the conception and discourse of “the Negro,” “the African,” or most succinctly, “the Nigger” depends in ways that are seldom addressed in the sphere of modern philosophy or critical theory on the racialized/ abjected being’s surviving, even thriving, within that putrid zone of nonsubjectification, on its living what would presumably be for “whiteness” exactly unlivable.

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