Detail of W. E. B. Du Bois and Shirley Graham Du Bois viewing the May Day parade in Moscow’s Red Square.

Lecture by Jonathan Flatley—Du Bois With Lenin: Theorizing the Revolutionary Counter-Mood

Tuesday, February 28, 2023 at 4:30pm
Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, Room 202


In this lecture, Jonanthan Flatley examines W.E.B. Du Bois (1868–1963) and Vladimir Lenin (1870–1924) as theorists of revolutionary counter-moods, those moments when discouraged, cynical, alienated, or otherwise disconnected people come together in solidarity to form energetic, hopeful, and demanding collectives, which then engage in transformative political action. Since both Du Bois and Lenin were politically motivated by the effort to bring an oppressed group together into a powerful collective capable of defeating their oppressors, they are both constantly revising their thinking in relation to this practical, political goal. Indeed, Flatley argues that this preoccupation with the problem of collective formation gives a coherence and continuity to their work across careers which might otherwise seem to contain inconsistencies or radical shifts. It also makes them compelling interlocutors for each other, since they each bring distinct, but related insights to this problem, one very relevant to our current moment. This lecture will examine a few key moments in their evolving understanding of collective formation, including What Is To Be Done (1902), The Souls of Black Folk (1903), John Brown (1909), and Du Bois’s turn, later in life, toward Marxism (as seen in his masterpiece Black Reconstruction, 1935) and then, to the Communist Party.

Jonathan Flatley is currently the Clark/Oakley Humanities Fellow at the Clark Art Institute and Williams College. Most broadly, his research concerns collective emotion as it takes shape in aesthetic and political forms. He is professor of English at Wayne State University, author of Affective Mapping: Melancholia and the Politics of Modernism (Harvard University Press, 2008), Like Andy Warhol (University of Chicago Press, 2017), and coeditor (with Jennifer Doyle and José Esteban Muñoz) of Pop Out: Queer Warhol (Duke University Press, 1996). He is currently finishing a book called Black Leninism: How Revolutionary Counter-Moods Are Made (from which this talk is excerpted) and beginning a new project about liking and being like trees.

This lecture is presented by the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies Department. This event is held in conjunction with the Wayland Rudd Collection exhibition, on display from Friday, February 3 through Tuesday, February 28, 2023 in the South Gallery of the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Sunday from Noon to 5pm. For more information, please visit the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery website

The exhibition and related events are co-sponsored by Wesleyan’s Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life; Center for the Humanities; Center for the Arts; African American Studies Department; History Department; and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies Department.

Image: Detail of W. E. B. Du Bois and Shirley Graham Du Bois viewing the May Day parade in Moscow’s Red Square, May 1, 1959. W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312). Courtesy of Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.