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Logics of Separation

Exile and Transcendence in Aesthetic Modernity


Michael Stone-Richards

This book is made up of a set of innovative close readings and meditations on the significance of the modes and logics of separation in the thinking of aesthetic modernity. Separation is defined in Hegelian and psychoanalytic terms as psychic processes in the formation of identity that necessarily entail self-division and estrangement in the emergence of subjectivity and social identity. This phenomenon, called subjection, has been at the core of psychoanalytic readings since the work of Melanie Klein.
The works under consideration in the volume include material by W.E.B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, C.L.R. James, Ralph Ellison, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, and Paul Celan, as well as the sorrow songs/Negro Spirituals. In each case the moment of passivity and modes of separation are approached as sites of inescapable conflict. The varying psychic, ethical, and political tensions underwriting this experience are examined in detail for each case study.


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Part II - Abandonment -189


Part II Abandonment Chapter 3 Painful Time: A Reading of Poetic Experience in the Sorrow Songs Time is a juxtaposing of pains and pain hurts even after the object is gone, faded. — Ralph Ellison, Juneteenth1 Everything that is alive, is painful. — Martin Heidegger, “Language in the Poem”2 The Moment for the Reception of the Sorrow Songs: Native Kunstlied / Art Song The larger movement for the social reception of the Negro Spirituals, a body of sacred songs communally composed by antebellum Negroes of the South of the United States – Georgia, Port Royal Islands, Carolinas, etc. – may have begun after the Civil War, in part motivated by folklorists who saw a culture disappearing before their eyes,3 but the final moment for the tran- sition to a larger public status was decidedly an avant-garde moment, that is, the historical and social configuration of the phenomenon of the New Negro and the Harlem Renaissance. For a significant period the Spirituals 1 Ralph Ellison, Juneteenth (New York: Vintage, 2000), 80. 2 Martin Heidegger, On the Way to Language, trans. Peter D. Hertz (New York: Harper and Row, 1982), 181. 3 Cf. the discussion of Thomas Wentworth Higgingson below. 192 Chapter 3 were neglected by all but folklorists and did not begin to receive a wider audience until a group of singers from the black South, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, students from Fisk University under the tutelage of George L. White, presented these songs to America (1871) and Europe (1873) as part of...

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