Is there “something to save”?: Death and Hope in Afro-Pessimism, Queer Negativity, and the late Baldwin
Clark, Crystal Brooke
Submission to the Friends of Fondren Library Research Awards, 2018. This paper was originally prepared for Course ENGL 570, Fall 2017: Blackness: An Advanced Seminar in African American Literature, given by Professor Nicole Waligora-Davis, Department of English.
This paper explores the connections and dissensions between two fields of thought, which scholars rarely discuss alongside each other: Afro-Pessimism and Queer Negativity. Through interweaving Baldwin’s late nonfiction and interviews with these two fields, I ask theorists of Afro-Pessimism and Queer Negativity questions concerning their understandings of death, subjectivity, temporality, and hope. In doing so, I do not seek to compare these methodologies against one another to fashion a hierarchy; rather I place these theories in conversation with one another in the hopes to find how Afro-Pessimism’s logic can challenge Queer Negativity and how Queer Negativity’s logic can further Afro-Pessimism. While these two theoretical fields are immersed in death, negativity, irredeemability, and hopelessness, I use the insights of late Baldwin to unfold Afro-Pessimism and Queer Negativity and then tie them together. Ultimately, I argue that these modes of thought are anything but hopeless and assert that hope is located in the intense, provocative, and generative power of their works themselves.