115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Feeling Beyond the Body: Visual Memory and African American Postmemory in J. California Cooper’s Family 

B. Elizabeth Underwood, University of California, Los Angeles

J. California Cooper’s Family provides the context to better interpret the kinds of feelings that the haunting figures of neo-slave narratives experience beyond the body. I argue that neo-slave narratives, with their ubiquitous haunting motifs, offer promising sites to investigate depictions of feelings associated with visual memory and African American Postmemory.  

Proposal: 

B. Elizabeth Underwood

PAMLA Proposal

2017

 

Feeling Beyond the Body:

Visual Memory and African American Postmemory

in J. California Cooper’s Family

 

 

For Clora, the ghost-mother narrator of J. California Cooper’s Family, death offers the only reprieve from slavery’s endless abuses.  Armed with a cooking pot and a handful of poisonous weeds, she prepares one final, lethal supper for herself and her four children.  They survive; she dies, slipping beyond the corporeal into the peripheries of time and space.  Clora transitions from the realm of the body to that of the incorporeal which allows her to experience the world solely through her sense of sight, and, as a result, she tells her story by recalling visual memories.  Cooper’s Family has been the subject of few scholarly articles, however I argue that we should devote more attention to this novel because it provides the context to better interpret the kinds of feelings that the haunting figures of neo-slave narratives experience beyond the body, outside the confined space of the corporeal.  Family allows us to ask the questions: What does it mean to feel beyond the body?  This paper explores how postmemory as conceptualized by Marianne Hirsch and, later articulated within the African American experience by Arlene Keizer, provides the tools to interpret neo-slave narratives.  In this paper, I argue that neo-slave narratives, with their ubiquitous haunting motifs, offer promising sites to investigate depictions of feelings associated with visual memory and African American Postmemory.