(Re)Imagining the First Steps: Childhoods of African American Literature, 1950-2008 Restricted; Files Only

Cohens, Derrick (Spring 2019)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/vd66w0866?locale=en


Taking seriously Robyn Bernstein’s articulation of childhood studies’ limitation of reconciling “the simultaneity and mutual constitution of children and childhood,” this dissertation serves as an intervention into this question.  Considering the ways that “children and childhood give body to each other,” I examine texts in African American literature that potentially produce paths forward for ways of understanding the categories of blackness, queerness, and childhood simultaneously. The desired, phantom child, and the ways in which we make this ethereal child material through innocence is pressed against the impossible black/queer child, a child who highlights the latent dangers of the perfect imagined child.  Bringing together the tension between History and fiction, the instructive but indeterminate (queer) child emerges from both. Ultimately, it is a child who is given shape through an arranged History, memory, metaphor, and shame.  

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION                                                                                                           1

CHAPTER ONE                                                                                                              17

The Look of Love…and Shame: Suffering Well in William Demby’s     


CHAPTER TWO                                                                                                             54                                                                                                     

A Moribund Kingdom/A Nasty Little Faggot—From There To Here                           

Through The Queer Body

CHAPTER THREE                                                                                                         90                        

On The Black Queer Poetics of Origins: Pat Parker’s Child of Myself                           

CHAPTER FOUR                                                                                                           120

Writing about Thomas Glave’s “He Who Would Have Become ‘Joshua,’ 1791”:

A Meditation on Water, Memory, and Time

BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                                                                           157                                                                   

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