The Souls of Black Folk: One Hundred Years Later

By Dolan Hubbard | Go to book overview
Save to active project

W.E.B. Du Bois and the Invention of
the Sublime in The Souls of Black Folk
Dolan Hubbard

The Music of Negro religion is that plaintive rhythmic melody, with its touching minor cadences, which, despite caricature and defilement, still remains the most original and beautiful expression of human life andlonging yet born on American soil.

—W. E. B. Du Bois

Background Considerations on the Sublime

I approach this critique of the sublime in the firm belief that it is important to attend to both aesthetic and cultural questions as we examine the issue of representation, especially as it relates to the African presence in the modern Western world. Admittedly, it is difficult to cover the whole of this topic, especially within the pages of a single essay. However, this essay can serve as a reevaluation of a term—the sublime—that an Anglo-European intellectual cartel has reservedfor themselves andthat apparently resides only in the ether of their imaginations. Though discussions of the sublime are by nature rife with subjective evaluation, W. E. B. Du Bois recognized that such discussions, nevertheless, are laden with objective implication. The underlying significance is that this notion creates a linkage of knowledge with power, as we see in the dislocating effects of knowledge without power for black and colored people.1 In The Souls of Black Folk (1903), Du Bois challenges this aesthetic doctrine.

My project is guidedby three interrelatedquestions. First, how do postEnlightenment ideas of the sublime shape our notion of humanity in the modern Western world? Second, why does Du Bois feel compelled to invent the sublime? Du Bois deconstructs the European notion of the sublime and constructs a black sublime. He locates this sublime in the religiosity

Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1979), 5–14.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Souls of Black Folk: One Hundred Years Later
Table of contents


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 341

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?