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Wesleyan University | Center for the Humanities



Facelessness: Two Scenes

Tyrone Palmer • Wesleyan University 

February 26th @ 6pm • Daniel Family Commons 

This talk considers the deployment of the concept-metaphor of “facelessness” in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Toni Morrison's Beloved. In both classical and contemporary theories of affect, the face is situated as the primary site of affective expression, the space where otherwise-indeterminable affect makes itself known. Yet the Black face, historically, has often been figured as expressionless and immobile, or, conversely, hyper-expressive—de-linked from any notion of an internal affective state; grotesquely over-emotional. The Black face, in its deformation and abstraction, is emblematic of the crisis for categorization, Knowledge, and Being—the general unthinkability—posed by Blackness as such. By challenging dominant conceptions of the face as a universal, anatomical reality or an ethico-affective horizon, both Ellison and Morrison offer new ground for the theorization of Black affect's aporetic forms.

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Center for the Humanities · 95 Pearl Street, Middletown, CT 06459

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