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Title:Signifying against antiblackness: Black Rhetoric in early African American writing
Author(s):Plasencia, Samantha
Director of Research:Dean, Tim; Spires, Derrick R.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Dean, Tim; Spires, Derrick R.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Murison, Justine S.; Asaka, Ikuko
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Early Black Literature, antiblackness, signification, Orations Commemorating the Abolition of the Slave Trade, David Walker, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Wilson, American Grammar, Black Rhetoric
Abstract:My dissertation, Signifying Against Antiblackness: Black Rhetoric in Early African American Writing, theorizes “Black Rhetoric” as a literary and theoretical tradition, distinct from the Anglo-American canon, that interrogates language as an apparatus of power. Through sermons, political pamphlets, press editorials, and life narratives, antebellum Black Rhetoricians such as David Walker, Adam Carman, William Whipper, and Harriet Wilson study how language can be used to mask antiblack violence. Each chapter balances two argumentative objectives: to demonstrate that Black Rhetoric produces knowledge about the relationship between language and antiblackness, and to show how Black Rhetoric is an active practice that intervenes in the masking protocols of antiblackness through argumentation, grammar, typography, sentence structuring, historiography, typology, characterization, and structural assembly, all of which stage the ontological contestation over meaning. This project draws on Hortense Spillers’s description of “American Grammar” as the “dominant symbolic activity,” an order of meaning wherein Black beings are recognizable only as that which is inhuman (or non-human). This order of meaning shapes the antebellum discursive context where seemingly diverse white discourses repress relations of power and enactments of violence in order to naturalize black inferiority. Black Rhetoric, by contrast, explicitly articulates the racist psychic and material investments that bond transnational power sectors to enslavement and other forms of antiblack violence. As such, Black Rhetoric interrogates how our behaviors are linguistically fabricated and directed, thereby rupturing American Grammar.
Issue Date:2020-07-15
Rights Information:Copyright 2020 Sam Plasencia
Date Available in IDEALS:2020-10-07
Date Deposited:2020-08

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