Subjection, Abstraction, Dissent: Hybrid Forms and the Neo-slave Narrative
This paper will compare three twenty-first century portrayals of U.S. plantation slavery, from poet M. NourbeSe Philip, graphic novelist Kyle Baker, and visual artist Kara Walker. By combining textual and visual modes, these hybrid works mark themselves as highly aestheticized, using form as a threshold for engaging black suffering. The abstraction emphasized in these hybrid forms, I argue, can center marginalized voices without simply offering them up as sympathetic spectacles. Instead, audiences engage formal difficulty as an entry point into generative emotional and political difficulty.