Matthew Vernon: Unexceptional Blackness and ‘Blind Matter’: Visuality, Temporality, and Race

21.03.2023, Vortrag, DHI London, online

This talk will consider Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins’s play, Everybody, which adapts the fifteenth-century play Everyman. Everyman is a particularly pointed choice for Jacobs-Jenkins to adapt because of its presentation of a Black character unexpectedly confronted by death, a move that cannot help but conjure up familiar ideas around ‘Black Lives Matter’ and the spectre of death that shadows that phrase. At the same time, in the context of Everybody, Jacobs-Jenkins presses the metaphysical boundaries of what ‘matter’ can mean and how one might continue to expand the political potency of the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’. In reading between these plays, I will interrogate the relationships between Blackness, visibility, materiality, and necropolitics. Central to this discussion will be an argument about reading race ‘counterfactually’, that is, how we read against the habits of representation that delimit the possibilities for recognizing Black lives.

Matthew Vernon is an associate professor of English Literature at the University of California, Davis. His first book, The Black Middle Ages, explores the understudied relationship between medievalism and Blackness in nineteenth and twentieth-century literature. He has also written articles on his interests in issues of race and genre, including on the post-truth phenomenon in nineteenth-century novels, Black speculative fiction, and comic books about displacement and vulnerability. He is currently working on an article on the adaptation of the medieval play, Everyman.

This lecture is organised by the GHIL and will take place online via Zoom ONLY. In order to attend this event, please register here via Eventbrite.

5:30 pm

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