Gone Astray in the Flesh Kara Walker

Based on the article Gone Astray in the Flesh Kara Walker, Black Women Writers, and African American Postmemory – Gone Astray in the Flesh by Arlene R. Keizer, please answer 3 questions (approx. 300 words each) of your choosing from the 2 sets of questions below, utilizing at least 1 question from each set. .

Set 1:

1. Keizer writes that for Black artists reckoning with the legacy of slavery in the 70s and later, “slavery is not the actual point of inquiry; instead, slavery functions as a placeholder for the less stark, more complex set of relations of domination for which we do not yet have a literary or visual language.” Thus, representations of slavery become analogs for contemporary racism. What connections can you make between the historical narratives in Walker’s work and our understandings of power, race, and sexuality today? How does this relate to the other depictions of slavery we’ve encountered over the semester?

2. Much of this essay deals with the explicitness of Walker’s work, which is often graphic in its depictions of both sexuality and violence, garnering criticism from some artists. Yet the form, which we’ve discussed in previous weeks, also serves to obscure and abstract these depictions. What do you make of the overt sexuality, violence, and sexual violence in the pieces included? How does this combination of graphic and abstract interact with Keizer’s assertion that the relationships between the enslaved and their enslavers are unable to be historicized?

3. Keizer writes: “In these works, Walker’s aim is neither elegy nor social protest. Instead, Walker is creating a visual language for the affective legacy of extended relationships of sexual domination.” What does it mean to create a visual language? How does this connect to our previous discussions of the unspeakable nature of trauma? Are there ways in which the writers we have read previously also create language where there once was none?

4. Keizer notes the way in which the women depicted in Walker’s work often appear to consent, either enthusiastically or passively, to the sexual acts they participate in. This consent, however, is complicated, as demonstrated in Walker’s Letter from a Black Girl. In this sense, Walker is less concerned with single moments of acute pain and violation, and instead depicts the way an entire culture engenders a complex trauma by sexually subjugating Black women. Desire and violence, in this figuring, are not mutually opposed. Where else have we seen desire and violence (both “masochistic” and “sadist”) interwoven in this way? Does it achieve the same effects as Walker’s work?

5. How does the concept of postmemory, which Keizer cites, relate to the way memory and history function in our other texts, particularly Beloved? What do you think Walker’s response would be to Beloved’s assertion that “this was not a story to pass on?”

Set 2:

1. In this essay, Keizer cataligs a set of “visual and ocnceptual icons that appear in this formal and informal archive” (1651). She brings up Morrison’s description of the scar on Sethe’s back as an example. Do we see any other symbols from this set functioning in Beloved? How are they acting as commentary within the narrative?

2. This essay brings up much of the criticism Walker has faced ragarding her depictions of slavery, especially in regard to the “almost pornographic” imagery of sexually violent experiences. How do these critiques compare to the opinions we read in “Seeing the Unspeakable” reagrding these depicitons? What are your own thoughts on on Walker’s purpose in presenting these events in this style?

3. Keizer heavily discussed th dynamics surrounding sex, power, and race both in the context of slavery and contemporary relationships. How do we see these concept interacting within the relationships we hav read about this semester in works such as Home and Beloved?

4. Keizer states “one of the most damning and inaccurate critiques leveled at Walker’s work is that it primarily addresses a white audience” (1670). Where else have we seen this critique this semester? How is it problematic in regards to the motives behind Walker’s, and other’s, work?

5. Keizer describes postmemorary as “a haunted condition, in which images from the past hover over the present or erupt into it” (1650). How do we see this concept working in Beloved and Home? How are the ideas of postmemory and “re-memory” used together to grapple with trauma, both personal and generational?

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