Yesterday the introduction to a forum on my book, Spirit in the Dark: A Religious History of Racial Aesthetics, went live on The Book Blog of The Immanent Frame.
I am, of course, excited to see my work featured in this space. Among other things, for the past decade The Immanent Frame has hosted forums on books by an incredible list of scholars, including the likes of Charles Taylor, Elizabeth Shakman-Hurd, Kathryn Lofton, Webb Keane, Brad Gregory, Courtney Bender and Robert Bellah --- to name just a few. I want to thank The Immanent Frame's Editorial Board for the invitation to host a forum on Spirit in the Dark, as well as to extend special gratitude to the editorial staff (Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins and Olivia Whitener) for all of the work that went into making it happen.
For now, what follows is an excerpt from my introduction to the forum and a link to the full essay on The Immanent Frame. It's a short "original" essay that attempts to situate Spirit in the Dark in relationship to a couple of key theoretical questions that lie behind my efforts to narrate African American religious and literary histories as a shared story. I found this task -- of writing something new about my own work -- to be surprisingly difficult; but that's a topic for another day. For now, I hope that you find The Immanent Frame's forum to be a fruitful and interesting conversation about my book and the broader themes of religion, race and the arts around which Spirit in the Dark is organized.
Spirit in the Dark—An introduction
I have written elsewhere about a set of contemporary experiences and observations—although now aged by roughly two decades—that provided the first sparks of interest in the questions that led to my first book, Spirit in the Dark: A Religious History of Racial Aesthetics. Travels back and forth between church services, on one hand, and open mics and poetry readings, on the other, during the 1990s provided the initial impetus for my efforts to bring religion and literature in conversation in the form of the longer story that Spirit in the Dark narrates. Admittedly, the religious history of black letters from the 1920s to the early 1970s that I offer is colored by “presentist” concerns.
To state the matter differently, Spirit in the Dark grew out of my desire for a better historical understanding of how things—things religious and things literary—came to be the way they are. So another way to account for (rather than obscure) the play between past and present, the personal and the historical, in Spirit in the Dark is to acknowledge the kinds of theoretical questions that animate my study of religion and the arts in twentieth-century (black) America.
As I was moving through doctoral studies, immersing myself in the fields of African American literary/cultural history and American religious history, two specific intellectual developments captured my imagination. Just one year before I began my PhD . . .
To continue reading, go to The Immanent Frame.