Culminating Project Title
Date of Award
Culminating Project Type
English: Rhetoric and Writing: M.A.
College of Liberal Arts
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
Keywords and Subject Headings
Affect, Sentimentality, Racism, Whiteness, Liberalism, Uncle Tom's Cabin
This thesis functions parenthetically within and between several essays of James Baldwin’s: most notably, “Everybody’s Protest Novel” and “The Price of the Ticket.” Its aim is to rigorously interrogate what I limn affective registers. My polemic aggressively pursues Baldwin’s scathing critique of sentimentalist discourses that extend, I argue, from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and are extended, therefrom, into a revivifying barrage of white savior complexes, ostentatious yard signs and progressive liberal tropes that attempt to mask the cruelty and spectacular violence endemic to and instantiated by sentimentality.
Given the aforementioned, this thesis holds a further, and much heavier contention: it follows that sentimentality is not only indexed by a kind of “spectacular violence” enacted upon Black bodies, but also that sentimentality is the discursive container constructing a form of emotionality simultaneously articulated through and by a certain metaphoricity located in the terminological markers and epistemic ruptures effecting the distanciation of white subjects/gazes from the metaphoricity of objects that are both constructed by and within the discourse of spectacular violence.
Therefore, the intentionally aggressive polemic this thesis pursues demands an evisceration of the psychic dimensions found within this peculiar brand of white (American) sentimentality—that which, as Teju Coles reminds us, “supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening.”
Lemmer, Stephanie M., "Spectacular Violence: The Affective Registers of Black Bodies’ Matter" (2016). Culminating Projects in English. 77.