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Late 20th Century Literary and Cinematic Representations of Slavery
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Northeast Modern Language Association: 45th Annual Convention, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Quentin Tarantino’s movie *Django Unchained,* has been polarizing since its 2012 release. Critics and audiences alike have commented on the overuse of the n-word and the extended scenes of hyperviolence that pepper the film. This last theme is the focus for our panel, especially in light of the artistic renderings of slavery since the 1960s Black Power Movement. After the 1960s, visual and textual representations of violence have shifted to become more vivid and grotesque; *Django Unchained* is the latest in a long line of late twentieth century films that explore the bloodiness of slavery. Other notable examples include *Goodbye Uncle Tom*, *Mandingo,* *Amistad,* and the television series *Roots*. They parallel the literature that has been produced at the same time, in novels such as *Beloved,* *Kindred* and *The Known World* which all reveal the extreme violence of the “peculiar institution.”
Ashraf Rushdy has coined the term “neo slave narrative” to describe the slave narratives in recent decades. How can we situate these texts alongside the depictions of slavery on film and television? What term defines the myriad visual portrayals of the bloodiness of slavery? Which medium—film, television or literature—is effective in revealing slavery’s violence? How do we reconcile the “post-race” rhetoric with the continued fascination in artistic renderings of it?
This panel seeks to address these questions by soliciting papers on the cinematic and literary depictions of the violence of slavery. Papers that compare enslaved violence in film and literature are especially welcome, as well as those that examine the intersections of gender and geography on these depictions. We hope to usher in a variety of methodologies and approaches, while attending to historical specificity, in pondering questions initiated by the violent slave depictions today.