Amid the Fall, Dreaming of Eden: Du Bois, King, Malcolm X, and Emancipatory Composition

By Bradford T. Stull | Go to book overview

5
Eden

Art's utopia, the counterfactual yet-to-come, is draped in black. It goes on being a recollection of the possible with a critical edge against the real; it is a kind of imaginary restitution of that catastrophe, which is world history.

-- Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory

As Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and social critic, argues, , "Eden" has historical importance for America. Europeans came to this continent, in part, with the feeling of "an Adam newly restored to paradise" (109). 1 Thus, the origins of the republic now called the United States are intimately tied to a vision of Eden, to a search, as the conquistadores would have it in their version, for Eldorado.

Not surprisingly, given the religious impulses that mark the history of its colonization and given its rootedness in biblical narrative, drama, and poetry, American culture is deeply informed by Eden. Yet, the allusive play of Eden is not limited to the life of religious institutions, be they Christian or Jewish. It is certainly true that members of these local cultures--part of the American culture at large-- need to know Eden. Within Christianity, for instance, there is a tradition of metaphoric play that names Jesus as the "second Adam."

Nor is the allusive play of Eden limited to the life of academic institutions, in particular the academy that preserves and teaches the canon of literary texts, most notably Milton Paradise Lost. Certainly, one must be able to play allusively with Eden if one is to delve fully into Milton's exploration. While crucial to Western culture in general and American culture in particular, such texts are read, in the main, by the members of a professional class and their students. It is a fair assumption that the vast majority of Americans never encounter Eden through Milton or any of the other texts of the literary canon. They

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Amid the Fall, Dreaming of Eden: Du Bois, King, Malcolm X, and Emancipatory Composition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Chapter 1 Emancipatory Composition 1
  • Chapter 2 The Fall 21
  • Chapter 3 The Orient 48
  • Chapter 4 Africa 74
  • Chapter 5 Eden 99
  • Chapter 6 Conclusion 120
  • Notes 129
  • Works Cited 139
  • Index 143
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