Transition - Vol. 114

Transition - Vol. 114

Transition - Vol. 114

Transition - Vol. 114

Synopsis

This book grows out of a longstanding fascination with the uncanny status of the mother in literature, philosophy, psychoanalysis, film, and photography. The mother haunts Freud's writings on art and literature, emerges as an obscure stumbling block in his metapsychological accounts of the psyche, and ultimately undermines his patriarchal accounts of the Oedipal complex as a foundation for human culture. The figure ofthe mother becomes associated with some of psychoanalysis's most unruly and enigmatic concepts (the uncanny, anxiety, the primal scene, the crypt, and magical thinking). Read in relation to deconstructive approaches to the work of mourning, this book shows how the maternal function challenges traditional psychoanalytic models of the subject, troubles existing systems of representation, and provides afertile source for nonmimetic, nonlinear conceptions of time and space.The readings in this book examine the uncanny properties of the maternal function in psychoanalysis, technology, and literature in order to show that the event of birth is radically unthinkable and often becomes expressed through uncontrollable repetitions that exceed the bounds of any subject. The maternal body often serves as an unacknowledged reference point for modern media technologies such as photography and the telephone, which attempt to mimic its reproductive properties. To the extent that these technologies aim to usurp the maternal function, they are often deployed as a means of regulating or warding off anxieties that are provoked by the experience of loss that real separation from the mother invariably demands. As the incarnation of our first relation to the strange exile of language, the mother is inherently a literary figure, whose primal presence in literary texts opens us up to the unspeakable relation to our own birth and, in so doing, helps us give birth to new and fantasmatic images of futures that might otherwise have remained unimaginable.

Excerpt

Amiri baraka was never one to shy away from public controversy. And, predictably, controversy ha thinker, educator, and activist. Among his many achievements, one must include that he was a founder of the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School, a distinguished and prolific poet, a leading figure and theoretician in the Black Arts Movement, the author of the pathbreaking study of African American music Blues People, an early proponent for and practitioner of Black Studies, an Obie-winning playwright, and a community organizer central to the revitalization of Newark, nj. Variously and persistently accused of being a racist, a misogynist, a homophobe, an anti-Semite, and an anarchist, this chorus of criticisms, though sometimes having merit, risks losing sight of Baraka’s outstanding artistic contributions, obscuring his steadfast commitment to fight for social justice and black liberation, and underappreciating his often principled changes of mind and heart.

To fully honor the man, then, requires giving space to examining these complexities. in the following essays and interview, we offer four quite different reflections on the person and impact of Amiri Baraka. in the first, Komozi Woodard, Baraka’s leading biographer, reviews some of the key facts of the artist’s life, in particular noting some that are often reported incorrectly. in the second essay, the famed novelist Ishmael Reed delves into his personal history with Baraka, alongside whom he grew up as an artist and with whom he enjoyed a long and contentious relationship as “frenemies.” in the third essay, Molefi Kete Asante, the leading authority on Afrocentric thought, discusses why he selected Amiri Baraka for his list of the one hundred most important African Americans, and why he feels that Baraka was one of the greatest American poets to ever live. We conclude with an interview of Kellie Jones, Baraka’s daughter, in which she talks about the influence of her family on her scholarship and work as an art curator.

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