“Facing Death: The Fear of Death vs. the Death of Fear” – led by Abdul JanMohamed, Professor of English at the University of California (Berkeley)

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Please join us for a Virtual Seminar – “Facing Death: The Fear of Death vs. the Death of Fear” – led by Abdul JanMohamed, Professor of English at the University of California (Berkeley) on Saturday, April 30 at 11:00 a.m. CST.

Abstract:  In my work on Native Son, and on Wright’s work in general, I have focused on the effects of the threat of death (lynching in Jim Crow society) as well as of the ensuing fear of death on the formation of individual psyche and subjectivity. And I have argued that all of Wright’s fiction is a systematic examination of the subject formed by the threat of death; it is an examination of how the threat/fear of death permeates every nook and cranny of the individual psyche. The virtual seminar, focusing in particular on Book Three of Native Son, will examine how Bigger Thomas faces his fear of death and finally overcomes it. Traditional literary criticism sees Book Three as the weakest part of Native Son; I will argue that it is the strongest and most powerful. My approach to this book and Wright’s work in general is based on the notion that the slave’s fear of death plays a crucial role in his/her enslavement and that conversely the overcoming of that fear can open the road to freedom.

It may be useful to keep in mind several statements by Wright, from Black Boy, regarding his view of lynching. By the age of eleven, he tells us, he “had already become as conditioned to [the] existence [of white racist society] as though I had been the victim of a thousand lynchings” (BB, 72). And when an older brother of a friend is lynched, the horror permeates the “deepest layers” of Wright’s consciousness and compels him “to give my entire imagination over to it, an act which blocked the spring of thought and feeling in me, creating a sense of distance between me and the world in which I lived” (BB, 165).
 Two short readings for the seminar (can also be found here)

Please feel free to e-mail questions in advance for Professor JanMohamed to the Wright Connection (wrightconnection@ku.edu)  

To attend the virtual seminar: 
2. Select “Enter as a Guest.” 
3.Type your name in the box. 
4. Click on “Enter Room.” 
5. The virtual seminar “room” will open at the start time of the seminar.  If you try to enter before then, you will see a message that reads:   

“The meeting has not yet started.  You will be able to access the meeting once the host arrives.  Please wait.”

All participants will need a Flash-based web browser and an Internet connection to access the virtual seminar.  Please feel free to e-mail Keah Cunningham (keah@ku.edu) with any technical questions or issues.

Additional information at www.wrightconnection.ku.edu