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tgiFHI: Kimberly K Lamm, "'She could work out some arrangement': Writing the Black Sartorial Imagination with Nella Larsen"

tgiFHI logo. Black text against transparent background with silhouette of three people.
Friday, November 04, 2022
9:30 am - 11:00 am
Kimberly K Lamm

Please join the Franklin Humanities Institute for its Friday morning series, tgiFHI! tgiFHI gives Duke faculty in the humanities, interpretative social sciences and arts the opportunity to present their current research to their colleagues, students, and other interlocutors in their fields.

"She could work out some arrangement": Writing the Black Sartorial Imagination with Nella Larsen

This paper comes out of Lamm's current manuscript, "Words and Clothes: Sartorial Self-Fashioning and the Legacies of Enslavement," which illuminates a heretofore unacknowledged tradition in which Black women writers from Reconstruction to the middle of the twentieth century crafted literary representations of clothing. Tracing a matrilineal heritage of sewing and writing from Elizabeth Keckley to Gwendolyn Brooks, Lamm argues that these writers reveal sartorial display to be poetic "language" that speaks to the psychic legacies of slavery's violence. For this paper in particular, I focus on Nella Larsen's Harlem Renaissance novel Quicksand (1928). At the center of Quicksand is Larsen's protagonist Helga Crane, a modern Black flanêuse with refined aesthetic sensibilities that manifest through her sensitive attention to fashionable clothing and Larsen links to her own work as a writer. Lamm aims to show that in Quicksand, Larsen does more than represent clothing; she deploys language as a psychic material to suggest that sartorial self-fashioning is actually a form of writing that challenged the racist and sexist fabrications.

Speaker bio:

Kimberly Lamm is Associate Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at Duke University and holds a secondary appointment in the department of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies. Lamm is the author of Addressing the Other Woman: Textual Correspondences in Feminist Art and Writing (2018) and the forthcoming book Writing in the Kitchen with Martha Rosler and Carrie Mae Weems: From Reproductive Labor to the Affective Labor of the Image (2023). Her research, which has appeared in journals such as Women's Studies Quarterly, Cultural Critique, Feminist Theory, and Oxford Art Journal, brings psychoanalytic feminism to bear on the study of U.S. literature, film, and visual culture. Lamm is currently a Research Associate with VIAD (Visual Identities in Art and Design) at the University of Johannesburg.

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Breakfast served @ 9. Masks required.