The Black Interior: Work and Feeling in African American Experience
Taylor, Christin Marie
This dissertation traces tropes of black workers in order to recuperate the category of labor for literary studies. Following these tropes as they reappear suggests that representations of African American workers have not only had something to say about the stakes of labor as it pertains to social uplift and mobility but also the role of feeling and desire. We might think of these tropes as unveiling dialectics of "push and pull" forces that reside between the confines of the outside world and the soul. By examining tropes of black work in this way, The Black Interior expands materialist readings of labor to include the role of feeling and desire as first elaborated by W. E. B. Du Bois. George Wylie Henderson's Ollie Miss (1935), William Attaway's Blood on the Forge (1941), Eudora Welty's The Golden Apples (1949), and Sarah E. Wright's This Child's Gonna Live (1969) use tropes of black work to reorient American consciousness toward the soul as the common root in the human rights pursuits that marked the twentieth century.