Stay Black and Die

Stay Black and Die
In Stay Black and Die, I. Augustus Durham examines melancholy and genius in black culture, letters, and media from the nineteenth century to the contemporary moment. Drawing on psychoanalysis, affect theory, and black studies, Durham explores the black mother as both a lost object and a found subject often obscured when constituting a cultural legacy of genius across history. He analyzes the works of Frederick Douglass, Ralph Ellison, Marvin Gaye, Octavia E. Butler, and Kendrick Lamar to show how black cultural practices and aesthetics abstract and reveal the lost mother through performance. Whether attributing Douglass's intellect to his matrilineage, reading Gaye's falsetto singing voice as a move to interpolate black female vocality, or examining the women in Ellison's life who encouraged his aesthetic interests, Durham demonstrates that melancholy becomes the catalyst for genius and genius in turn is a signifier of the maternal. Using psychoanalysis to develop a theory of racial melancholy while "playing" with affect theory to investigate racial aesthetics, Durham theorizes the role of the feminine, especially the black maternal, in the production of black masculinist genius.
Publication Date: 
December 19, 2023