Emerson College WLP presents Erika R. Williams’ “Subversions of Double Consciousness in W. E. B. Du Bois’s Detective Fiction.”
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Scant attention has been paid to Du Bois’s forays into the detective story. In this talk, Williams examines two iterations of the writer’s early twentieth-century detective fiction, “The Case” and “The Shaven Lady,” both of which feature a Pullman porter (railway attendant) as an inadvertent detective and both of which were self-published in Horizon magazine. As these stories subvert both parochial structures of inter-racial relations and familiar elements of prototypical mysteries, they reflect Du Bois’s mission to mitigate the power of a racialist, patriarchal gaze to fix the place of the “others” under its purview. Centered around Du Bois’s theory of double consciousness, which ascribes a doubled–and contradictory–perspective to a black subject forced to view herself through a Eurocentric lens, Williams argues that double consciousness might extend beyond the sole parameters of subjectivity, since a hegemonic gaze is never simply unilateral but always–in some measure–returned.
Erika Renee Williams is Assistant Professor of African American Literature and Culture in the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies at Emerson College, where she teaches courses reflecting her interests in modernist and contemporary African American literature; theories of race, gender, and sexuality; and formulations of cultural and personal identity. She is currently at work on a book manuscript entitled “Cross-Caste Romance and Queer Intimacy in the Literature of W.E.B. Du Bois.” Her publications include: “A Lie of Omission: Plagiarism in Nella Larsen’s Quicksand” (African American Review, Honorable Mention for the Joe Weixlmann Award), “Subverted Passing: Racial and Transgender Identities in Linda Villarosa’s Passing for Black” (Studies in American Fiction) and “Review Essay: Those About Him Remained Silent by Amy Bass” (Callaloo). Her essay “A Hymn of Faith Is a Tale of Love: Lohengrin and Romance in Du Bois’s ‘Of the Coming of John'” is forthcoming in Modern Fiction Studies.
Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.