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Cultural MelancholyReadings of Race, Impossible Mourning, and African American Ritual$
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Jermaine Singleton

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780252039621

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252039621.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM ILLINOIS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.illinois.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Illinois University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ISO for personal use.date: 16 September 2021

The Melancholy of Faith

The Melancholy of Faith

Reading the Gendered and Sexual Politics of Testifying in James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain and The Amen Corner

(p.65) 3 The Melancholy of Faith
Cultural Melancholy

Jermaine Singleton

University of Illinois Press

This chapter addresses the question of how unresolved racial grief works through the demands of capital, racialization, and sacred ritual practice to enact a gender hierarchy. It thinks through James Baldwin's first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), to explore how testifying serves as a technology of black patriarchy—a ritual that arises out of the need for racial and economic redemption yet unfolds within and propagates gendered power relations. It examines how the content and structure of Baldwin's Bildungsroman, set in Harlem's Pentecostal community during the Great Depression, allegorizes the conversion of John Grimes, who embodies the “weak, feminine flesh” of his matrilineal line that is sacrificed to secure his “manchild” status of salvation. The chapter is punctuated by a section that situates Baldwin's novel as a form of sexual testifying on the part of Baldwin himself. In doing so, it places Baldwin's novel in conversation with its dramatic sequel, The Amen Corner (1954), to explore how both texts anticipate and extend queer theoretical conversations about the social construction of black, gay subject-formations.

Keywords:   subject formation, unresolved racial grief, James Baldwin, The Amen Corner, Go Tell It on the Mountain, gender hierarchy, racialization, sacred ritual practice

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