W.E.B. Du Bois Writes The Black Flame: Tracing His Political Aesthetic and Its Relation to Current Aesthetic Movements
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This thesis investigates the political aesthetic project of W.E.B. Du Bois by examining seminal essays in his oeuvre and with a dedicated focus on his last work of fiction, The Black Flame. In his political aesthetics, Du Bois brings aesthetic theory into direct conversation with the social and political circumstances of his time, particularly the state of race relations in nineteenth- and twentieth-century America. Art becomes a medium for African-American expression, and consequently, a means to challenge racist propaganda and encourage social freedom and uplift. The Black Flame trilogy, published in the last years of Du Bois’s life, remains an understudied, yet monumental, work of history and fiction. The trilogy stands as the culmination of Du Bois’s thought and research, and as such, is an indispensable resource to understand the evolution and final formulation of his politico-aesthetic theory. This thesis traces the development of Du Bois’s political aesthetics through early works such as The Souls of Black Folk, and Du Bois’s mid-period in works such as Darkwater and “The Criteria of Negro Art.” Importantly, I connect the author’s political aesthetic project to the contemporary transformative aesthetics movement. Briefly, transformative aesthetics can be defined as both a cultivating sensibility and a creative practice aimed at self-transformation, as well as social and political transformation. I argue that Du Bois’s work in political aesthetics demonstrates that the author is an unrecognized, but important, precursor to the transformative aesthetics movement. The interconnectedness of art and politics, and of the aesthetic and the ethical, finds its fullest and most thorough development in The Black Flame trilogy. A close reading of the novels also reveals changes and tensions within Du Bois’s political aesthetics project as the author uses the space of the novels for both an introspective and retrospective journey into the social, political, and philosophical issues and insights that occupied his life and career.
Yarzagaray, Diana Adenike (2016). W.E.B. Du Bois Writes The Black Flame: Tracing His Political Aesthetic and Its Relation to Current Aesthetic Movements. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from