Conditions of the Present

Selected Essays

Book Pages: 400 Illustrations: Published: March 2018

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory

Conditions of the Present collects essays by the late Lindon Barrett, whose scholarship centers African American literature as a site from which to theorize race and liberation in the United States. Barrett confronts critical blind spots within both academic and popular discourse, offering readings of cultural and literary texts that transcend institutional divides and the gulf between academia and the street. Whether analyzing autobiographies by Lucy Delaney or Langston Hughes, hip-hop eulogies, or the formation of U.S. nationalist discourse, Barrett interrogates the mechanisms that shape social and subjective structures and that grant certain people power while withholding it from others. Deploying Marxist, psychoanalytic, feminist, and queer theories, Barrett explicates the interrelationship of desire and subjection to expose the violence and coercion embedded in narratives of "progress." Ultimately, this collection emphasizes Lindon Barrett's vital and enduring contribution to African American studies.

Contributors. Elizabeth Alexander, Jennifer DeVere Brody, Daphne A. Brooks, Linh U. Hua, Janet Neary, Marlon B. Ross, Robyn Wiegman


Conditions of the Present validates Lindon Barrett’s brilliant career in African American studies. Recommended.” — L. L. Johnson, Choice

“It is difficult to imagine a more urgent intellectual return, or a more vital work of mourning, than Conditions of the Present. Reading Lindon Barrett is unsettling, because he was a scholar who never settled. This lovingly curated collection is an impossible thank you for his critical wisdom, as well as a demanding provocation to wise up. We are still—or ought still to be—catching up with Lindon Barrett, for his work conditions our ongoing present.” — David Kazanjian, author of The Brink of Freedom: Improvising Life in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World

"This impressive collection of essays by Lindon Barrett, one of the most brilliant theoreticians of his generation, carves a pathway between two discrete fields of discourse and brings them into mutual attraction. African American literary and cultural studies and poststructuralist persuasions in general are customarily thought of as not only disparate intellectual technologies, but widely divergent human and historical orders. Conditions of the Present is having none of it: in Barrett's readings, these textual neighbors powerfully meld to our collective benefit." — Hortense J. Spillers, author of Black, White, and in Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Lindon Barrett (1961–2008) was Professor of English and African American Studies at the University of California, Riverside, and the author of Blackness and Value: Seeing Double and Racial Blackness and the Discontinuity of Western Modernity.

Janet Neary is Associate Professor of English at Hunter College, City University of New York, and the author of Fugitive Testimony: On the Visual Logic of Slave Narratives.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface: Contrary to Appearances / Jennifer DeVere Brody  xi
Acknowledgments  xv
Introduction: Unruly Knowledges / Janet Neary  1
I. In the Classroom, In the Academy: Situating African American Literature, Theory, and Culture
Introduction / Linh U. Hua  25
1. Institutions, Classrooms, Failures: African American Literature and Critical Theory in the Same Small Spaces  31
2. The Experiences of Slave Narratives: Reading against Authenticity  48
3. Redoubling American Studies: John Carlos Rowe and Cultural Criticism  61
II. Gestures of Inscription: African American Slave Narratives
Introduction / Daphne A. Brooks  87
4. African-American Slave Narratives: Literacy, the Body, Authority  92
5. Hand-Writing: Legibility and the White Body in Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom  119
6. Self-Knowledge, Law, and African American Autobiography: Lucy A. Delaney's From the Darkness Cometh the Light  139
III. Imagining Collectively: Identity, Individuality, and Other Social Phantasms
Introduction / Marlon B. Ross  165
7. Identities and Identity Studies: Reading Toni Cade Bambra's "The Hammer Man"  171
8. The Gaze of Langston Hughes: Subjectivity, Homoeroticism, and the Feminine in The Big Sea  193
9. Black Men in the Mix: Badboys, Heroes, Sequins, and Dennis Rodman  212
10. Dead Men Printed: Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls, and Hip-Hop Eulogy  237
IV. Calculations of Race and Reason: Theorizing the Psychic and the Social
Introduction / Robyn Wiegman  273
11. Presence of Mind: Detection and Racialization in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue"  278
12. Family Values/Critical Values: "The Chaos of Our Strongest Feelings" and African American Women's Writings of the 1890s  299
13. Mercantilism, U.S. Federalism, and the Market within Reason: The "People" and the Conceptual Impossibility of Racial Blackness  320
Afterword: Remembering Lindon Barrett / Elizabeth Alexander  353
Contributors  357
Index  361
Credits  375
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-7051-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-7032-1
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