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790. "I've Known Rivers": Water in African Diasporic Literary Consciousness

Sunday, 12 January, 1:45–3:00 p.m., Chicago F, Chicago Marriott

A special session

Presiding: Folashade Alao, Univ. of South Carolina, Columbia; Kameelah L. Martin, Savannah State Univ.

1. "Wading in the Water: Navigating Limbo in Edwidge Danticat's The Farming of Bones and Mayra Santos-Febres's Nuestra Senora de la Noche and 'Resinas para Aurelia,'" Sara Gusky, Univ. of Miami

2. "Basquiat on the Bayou: Envisioning the Living History of Delta Floods and Jim Crow Inequality," Johanna Almiron-Johnson, Univ. of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Johanna Almiron-Johnson's Annotation:
In the autumn of 2005, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (MFAH) hosted the touring retrospective exhibition of artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat, a mere three and a half miles shy of Reliant Astrodome, the provisional shelter for over 23,000 occupants displaced by Hurricane Katrina. By synthesizing the contemporary historical moment and the artworks’ original social context, this essay argues that Basquiat’s symbolic, lyrical and textual signification of the Mississippi River reflects a marginalized social history of race, class and catastrophe. This essay analyzes selected Basquiat works on the repressed, subterranean histories of Mississippi flooding against the media specter of Hurricane Katrina and its connection to the spectacular legacy of lynching and migration. This essay suggests that Basquiat’s works on the Mississippi River reiterates a cultural response specific to the diasporic continuum of Africanist faith and spirituality to the economic and psychological trauma derived from the trans-Atlantic slavery systems. Basquiat's figurative paintings referenced spiritual idioms of African diasporic practices that miraculously survived the catastrophe of the Middle Passage and slavery. Here, Basquiat visually conjures ancient rubrics of faith and hope in the face of natural disasters and man-made despair.

3. "'Tributary Histories' Flowing into National Waterways: European Rivers in Sub-Saharan African Immigration Literature," Katelyn Knox, Univ. of Central Arkansas

4. "The Black Schooner: Critical Flow in Nineteenth-Century Oceanic Imagination," Judith I. Madera, Wake Forest Univ.


  • Genre, Theory, Method – Themes, Myths, and Archetypes

  • Other Literature in English – Caribbean

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