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Social Death and Narrative Aporia in 12 Years a Slave

Frank B. Wilderson III
Black Camera
Vol. 7, No. 1 (Fall 2015), pp. 134-149
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2979/blackcamera.7.1.134
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Page Count: 16
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Social Death and Narrative Aporia in 12 Years a Slave
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Abstract The expanding field of Afro-Pessimism elaborates a paradigmatic critique of the Human that reckons civil society's perverse and parasitic relation to the hydraulics of anti-Black violence. Solomon Northup's account of captivity in Twelve Years a Slave (1853) and Steve McQueen's cinematic adaptation (2013) offer synchronic instances illustrative of the incomprehensibility of the slave's ontological dilemma for the spatiotemporal structure of narrative: social death is the very meta-aporia that interrogates narrative as form. Blacks, pace Frantz Fanon, function instead as structurally inert props for the execution of White fantasies and sadomasochistic pleasures, foreclosing reciprocity and any ethical structure of desire.

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