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Gift of the Spirit: Reading The Souls of Black Folk

by Eugene Victor Wolfenstein Cornell University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 192 pages
AU$54.99 NZ$58.25
Product Status: Title is Print on Demand - May take 4 weeks
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In A Gift of the Spirit, Eugene Victor Wolfenstein offers a reading of W. E. B. Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk aimed at demonstrating its organic unity and coherence. He takes as his interpretive key the experience of the color line with which Du Bois's narrative begins—the incident from his youth in which a white girl refused his offer of a visiting card. Wolfenstein contends that this instance of misrecognition makes visible an aesthetic and affective configuration involving insult and injury, both racial and personal; anger as the immediate response to the humiliating wound; and, when that anger is suppressed, a melancholy retreat from the site of injury. As Wolfenstein reconstructs it, Souls tells the story of Du Bois's twofold approach to waging the battle for recognition: proud and disciplined resistance to the impositions and injustices of white supremacy; and the development of an intellectual station above the field of battle, where it could be surveyed from on high.With its serious and respectful approach to this canonical work in African American social theory, A Gift of the Spirit is a fitting tribute to the enduring relevance of Du Bois's singular achievement.
''Political theorists have only recently begun to give W. E. B. Du Bois's work the careful and close readings it deserves. Victor Wolfenstein's detailed and subtle interpretation of The Souls of Black Folk is a major contribution to this new and welcome trend, and with great insight makes the case for the value of a sustained, psychoanalytic reading of Du Bois's great book.''-Robert Gooding-Williams, University of Chicago
Eugene Victor Wolfenstein is Professor of Political Science at the University of California at Los Angeles and from 1988 to 2002 was a member of the faculty of the Southern California Psychoanalytic Institute. His previous books include Inside/Outside Nietzsche: Psychoanalytic Explorations, also from Cornell, Psychoanalytic-Marxism: Groundwork, and The Victims of Democracy: Malcolm X and the Black Revolution.