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"This is My Life"


"This Is My Life": The Sonnet and the Emergence of Black Subjectivity
Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm
Beinecke Library, Room 38
Part of a larger research project on the African American sonnet, this talk will explore the role of the sonnet form in the emergence of an individualized subjectivity in turn-of-the-century black writing. African American poetry in the nineteenth century was overwhelmingly public. Where it did not take a stand in political debates, it at least presented the kind of exteriorized, carefully crafted persona deemed suitable in the struggle for cultural recognition. It was in the sonnet, that poets were first able to move beyond these constraints toward a fuller self-expression. Dunbar, Braithwaite, and a number of their contemporaries took advantage of the emotional depth associated with the sonnet form to articulate a literary subjectivity that was often partial and paradoxical but constituted an important step toward cultural and psychological emancipation.

Timo Müller is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Augsburg, Germany, where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2009. His main research areas are modernism, ecocriticism, and African American and Caribbean literature. He has published The Self as Object in Modernist Fiction: James, Joyce, Hemingway (2010) as well as articles in journals including Anglia, The Journal of Modern Literature, and Twentieth-Century Literature. An article on James Weldon Johnson and the genteel tradition is forthcoming. His research at Beinecke is for his current book project, The African American Sonnet.

Image: Aaron Douglas illustration appearing in Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life, 1926.

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