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tgiFHI: Stefani Engelstein, “Divisive Affect, Loyalty, and National Cohesion: Du Bois contra Wagner”

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Friday, November 18, 2022
9:30 am - 11:00 am
Stefani Engelstein

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 departmental (and interdepartmental) colleagues, students, and other interlocutors in their fields.

"Divisive Affect, Loyalty, and National Cohesion: Du Bois contra Wagner"

The divisive affect at the center of contemporary debates on teaching the history of race relations in the US was also theorized by several European theorists of the late nineteenth through early twentieth century as problematic for social cohesion, including Richard Wagner, Ernest Renan, and Georg Simmel. This talk will explore W.E.B. Du Bois's engagement with theories of loyalty, ignorance, and national unity, which he draws from these thinkers. Du Bois's admiration of the power of Wagner's operas, in particular, has long puzzled scholars. Recognizing Du Bois's critique of Lohengrin, most clearly evidenced in the short story "The Coming of John" within The Souls of Black Folk, requires first subjecting the opera's emphasis on loyalty and ignorance to new analysis. In dialog with Wagner, Du Bois's story illuminates forms of affective transmission beyond the epistemological that manifest themselves in violent cycles of repetition resistant to the influence of knowledge. While Du Bois here also employs methods, themselves repurposed from Wagner, to reclaim time from the violent cycles of repetition he documents, education emerges as inadequate to the task.

Speaker bio:

Stefani Engelstein is Professor of German Studies and of Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at Duke University. Her work focuses on German and British literature and science, aesthetics, gender, political theory, and the history of knowledge. In addition to numerous articles, she is the author of Sibling Action: The Genealogical Structure of Modernity and of Anxious Anatomy: The Conception of the Human Form in Literary and Naturalist Discourse, as well as co-editor of Contemplating Violence: Critical Studies in Modern German Culture. In 2021-2022 she was a Visiting Scholar at the Leibniz Center for Literary and Cultural Research in Berlin. She is currently working on a book project entitled The Making of Oppositional Sexes.

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Breakfast served @ 9. Masks required.