Ordinary Intimacies in Emerson, Du Bois, and Baldwin
This essay reads James Baldwin in conversation with two unexpected interlocutors
from the American nineteenth and twentieth centuries: Ralph Waldo Emerson and W.
E. B. Du Bois. What draws these historically distant and intellectually
different thinkers together, their differences making their convergences all the
more resonant and provocative, is a shared mode of attention they bring to the
social crises of their eras. It is a mode of attention foregrounding how the
often unobserved particulars and emotional registers of human life vitally shape
civic existence; more specifically, a mode of attention provoking us to see how
“a larger, juster, and fuller future,” in Du Bois’s words,
is a matter of the ordinary intimacies and estrangements in which we exist,
human connections in all their expressions and suppressions. Emerson names them
“facts [. . .] harder to read.” They are “the
finer manifestations,” in Du Bois’s terms, “of social life,
which history can but mention and which statistics can not count”;
“All these things,” Baldwin says, “[. . .]
which no chart can tell us.” In effect, from the 1830s to the 1980s these
thinkers bear witness to what politics, legislation, and even all our knowledges
can address only partially, and to the potentially transformative compensations
we might realize in the way we conduct our daily lives. The immediate relevance
and urgency this essay finds in their work exists not in proposed political
actions, programs for reform, or systematic theories of social justice but in
the way their words revitalize the ethical question “How shall I
live?” Accumulative and suggestive rather than systematically comparative
or polemical, this essay attempts to engage with Emerson, Du Bois, and Baldwin
intimately, to proceed in the spirit of their commitment to questioning received
disciplines, languages, and ways of inhabiting the world.
Pastoral is one of the few literary modes whose genesis can be clearly traced. While poems reworking pristine rustic experience might have existed earlier, the pastoral mode as now recognized originated with the Greek poet Theocritus in the third century BCE. More correctly put, Theocritus provided a model that others followed to create the mode.
This is a companion to Pastoral poetry of the English Renaissance: An anthology (2016), the largest ever collection of its kind. The monograph-length Introduction traces the course of pastoral from antiquity to the present day. The historical account is woven into a thematic map of the richly varied pastoral mode, and it is linked to the social context, not only by local allegory and allusion but by its deeper origins and affinities. English Renaissance pastoral is set within the context of this total perspective. Besides the formal eclogue, the study covers many genres: lyric, epode, georgic, country-house poem, ballad, romantic epic, drama and prose romance. Major practitioners like Theocritus, Virgil, Sidney, Spenser, Drayton and Milton are discussed individually. The Introduction also charts the many means by which pastoral texts circulated during the Renaissance, with implications for the history and reception of all Early Modern poetry. The poems in the Anthology have been edited from the original manuscripts and early printed texts, and the Textual Notes comprehensively document the sources and variant readings. There are also notes on the poets and analytical indices of themes, genres, and various categories of proper names. Seldom, if ever, has a cross-section of English Renaissance poetry been textually annotated in such detail.
Lesbian citizenship and filmmaking in Sweden in the 1970s
This chapter examines two rare lesbian film productions in Sweden in the 1970s, The Woman in Your Life is You (Lesbian Front, 1977) and Eva and Maria (Marie Falksten, Annalena Öhrström and Mary Eisikovits, 1983). The two films are unique cases illuminating the official shift from regarding homosexuality as a mental disorder to regarding homosexuals as a vulnerable group exposed to prejudice and discrimination in Sweden in the early 1980s. Both were funded by the state agency Socialstyrelsen [The National Board of Health and Welfare], the same agency in charge of the official classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder in Sweden until 1979. Drawing from archival research and interviews, the chapter sheds light on the rhetorical twists and euphemisms through which lesbian filmmaking was inserted into the National Board of Health and Welfare’s budget and administered as an issue of birth control education. The notion of vulnerability, the chapter argues, played an instrumental and multifaceted role in the production of lesbian citizenship and audio-visual self-presentation at this moment in time.
Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves as a reparative fantasy
This chapter analyses Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves (Torka aldrig tårar utan handskar), a trilogy of novels by Jonas Gardell (2012–13) and a three-part TV drama (2012) on the HIV/AIDS crisis in Stockholm in the 1980s, as an intense occasion of affective historiography. While enabling the gay community to revisit the trauma of HIV/AIDS, to mourn the victims and to communicate the injuries to the mainstream audience, the transmedial epic also engaged in a politics of nation. While issuing a fierce accusation of homophobia against past Swedish society, through processes of resignification and transference, the epic and its extensive media coverage reframed the HIV/AIDS-stricken bodies as objects of compassion, restoring the self-image of Sweden as a caring nation, a welfare state and folkhem, a people’s home. In a reparative and fantasmatic gesture, it concludes in a Christian dream of redemption for both queer subjects – celebration in life, turning of shame into life – and the nation, provided that ‘we all wipe each other’s tears without gloves’. Analysing the epic and its media framings, the chapter examines the terms by which gay history may be incorporated into a national narrative, and how vulnerability may become a resource for the nation-building.
This chapter focuses on the politics of hurt and bad feeling within feminism: how hurt, injuries and experiences of violence bring people to feminism, how racism, sexism, injury and injustice generate agency and political transformation, but also how the hurt expressed by those who have been traumatised by sexism or racism is often heard as imposition. Discussing the figure of the too-easily-hurt student, the charges against Women’s Studies as anti-intellectual talk about hurt feelings, and feminism itself as politically impoverished (and damaging to the left) because of its concern with individual consciousness and suffering, as well as the figure of the melancholic migrant, the author highlights a tendency to underestimate the difficulty of giving and sustaining attention to forms of suffering. As a result, the desire to move beyond suffering in reconciliation and ‘get over it’ means that those who persist in being hurt become seen as killjoys and causes of general unhappiness. Instead, the author suggests, bad feelings should be seen as creative responses to histories that are unfinished
The failure and success of a Swedish film diversity initiative
Mara Lee Gerdén
This chapter examines the affective politics of the Fusion Programme launched by the Swedish Film Institute in 2016 to promote diversity in Swedish film production. The programme emphasised innovation, intersectional analysis, and feminist and anti-racist perspectives on artistic practices. The author, a participant in the programme alongside seven other women of colour, investigates the tensions between participant motivations and a film policy which balanced conflicting frameworks: an outspoken effort to attain goals for gender equality, the desire to implement a perspective on diversity, a notion of quality informing Swedish film policy since the 1960s, and a Swedish self-image expressed as a need to ‘implement Swedish values’. While launched in the name of advancing diversity in Swedish film, it is argued, there was a clear tension between the quality film rhetoric of the Swedish Film Institute and the participants’ insistence on making race play a major role in the respective projects. The chapter investigates the resulting ‘affective indigestion’, analysing pain as a central theme in the majority of the participants’ projects, but also as a recurring emotion emerging from the affective clash between the institutional desire to produce diversity and the participants’ refusal to submit to that desire.
The chapter examines the Swedish media debate around the animated children’s film Liten Skär och Alla Små Brokiga [Little Pink and The Motley Crew] (Stina Wirsén, Sweden 2012). It focuses particularly on the ways in which the film’s pickaninny figure, Little Heart, and the hurtfulness of this stereotype were discussed and contested in the context of Swedish exceptionalism, where Sweden imagines itself as a raceless, tolerant country, supposedly less affected by postcolonial relations than other nations. The author reflects on the debate partly from an autoethnographical perspective, shedding light on the simultaneous invitation to participate and silencing of black voices in the debate. The chapter argues that the debate ended up producing a sense of white fragility as a priority instead of dealing with anti-black racism, its consequences for black people, and its ongoing maintenance through representation. Drawing on afro-pessimist scholarship, the chapter elucidates the ways in which blackness and black life have become contested, unfathomable objects in Swedish mainstream media debates.