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Department of English Presents

Dr. Rolland Murray: “Dead Minstrels: Race, Negativity, and Institutional Black Culture“

3/29/18, 4:00 PM

About this event

The Department of English and the Joseph Warren Beach Lectures present a talk by Dr. Rolland Murray, Associate Professor of English at Brown University.

Contemporary African American writers such as Suzan-Lori Parks, Cornelius Eady, and Hilton Als have developed aesthetic strategies that trouble established critical frameworks for interpreting black literature. These writers draw generatively on forms of racial negation and invective that are the hallmarks of the blackface minstrel tradition. In so doing, they confound longstanding theories regarding the sovereignty of the black subject and political resistance. By staging the interplay between scholarly accounts of minstrel representation and contemporary aesthetic developments, this lecture reassesses the institutional protocols of African American critical theory and elaborates the distinctive character of contemporary black expression.

Dr. Murray's scholarship focuses on the interplay between mass social movements, identity politics, and literary production in 20th-century African American culture. He is the author of Our Living Manhood: Literature, Black Power, and Masculine Ideology (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007). His current project considers the impact of postidentity politics on contemporary African American culture, finding a range of fiction, creative nonfiction, and drama that imagines innovative paradigms for reassessing black communal belonging.

The Joseph Warren Beach Lectures began in 1959 with a focus on literary criticism. Past Beach series speakers include Lionel Trilling, Mary McCarthy, Edward Said, Nikki Giovanni, Noam Chomsky, and Anne Carson. The series was initiated to honor Joseph Warren Beach, influential American critic and long-time Chair and Professor in the Department of English.

Detail from Michael Ray Charles' painting "Before Black (Toy Soldiers)" (1997).
Event Location
  • Lind Hall 207
  • 207 Church St SE
  • Minneapolis MN
  • USA