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tgiFHI: Douglas Jones, "The New Negro, a Double Act: More Notes from the 'Black Below'"

black text against gray background. includes photo of Douglas Jones and tgiFHI logo.
Friday, November 11, 2022
9:30 am - 11:00 am
Douglas Jones

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.

"The New Negro, a Double Act: More Notes from the 'Black Below'"

One of the most fascinating and underappreciated events in American cultural history is the rise of black minstrelsy in the decades following the US Civil War. This talk explores the ways in which black performers refashioned the notorious minstrel show to showcase their own talents and theatrical tastes. Their efforts laid the groundwork for what would become (African) American cultural modernism, from stand-up and the comedic sketch to literature and musical genres such as ragtime, jazz, and the Great American songbook. My exploration of black minstrelsy and the cultural genealogies that flow from its formal and affective interventions lays the groundwork for a theory of New Negro subjectivity that I understand as a "double act," which is a comic routine composed of the straight man and the goofball. The New Negro qua double act is somewhat related to but very different from W.E.B. Du Bois' famous notion of "double consciousness." I propose the double act to conceptualize affects, experiences, and psycho-social bearings of certain black American populations that Du Boisian double consciousness cannot account for. The gag, I argue, is that the figure of Du Bois emerges as the straight man for these populations.

Douglas A. Jones, Jr. is associate professor of English and Theater Studies at Duke University. He is the author of The Captive Stage: Performance and the Proslavery Imagination of the Antebellum North and editor of three books, including Race and Performance after Repetition, which won the Errol Hill Award from the American Society for Theatre Research for best book in black theatre and performance studies. In addition to working on several projects stemming from his research on black minstrelsy, he is currently finishing a book called "Pragmatics of Democracy: A Political Theory of African American Literature before Emancipation." Professor Jones received his Ph.D. from Stanford University and was a fellow in the Princeton Society of Fellows.

Breakfast served at 9 am.
Masks required.
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