In Limbo: Double Consciousness in Ellison’s Invisible Man and Wright’s ‘The Man Who Lived Underground’

‘You’re nobody, son. You don’t exist – can’t you see that? The white folk tell everybody what to think…’[1]

W E B Du Bois (1918)
W E B Du Bois (1918)

The term double consciousness was first explored by W E B Du Bois in ‘The Souls of Black Folk’[2], published in 1903. Du Bois understands this doubling of consciousness as a direct product of ‘the power of white stereotypes in black life and thought’[3] and the practical racism that excluded every black American from the mainstream of society.[4] For Du Bois, the concept of double consciousness is characterised by two particular and distinct signifiers; the first is ‘second sight’ – the inherent duality of African American identity and vision. The second, and more problematic signifier, is that of existing ‘behind the veil’ and this may be defined as the limitations of seeing and being seen unclearly. Continue reading “In Limbo: Double Consciousness in Ellison’s Invisible Man and Wright’s ‘The Man Who Lived Underground’”

A Queer Reading of Katherine Mansfield’s ‘Bliss’

Katherine Mansfield, 1916
Katherine Mansfield, 1916

‘But in her bosom there was still that bright glowing place-that shower of little sparks coming from it. It was almost unbearable. She hardly dared to breathe for fear of fanning it higher, and yet she breathed deeply, deeply. She hardly dared to look into the cold mirror-but she did look, and it gave her back a woman, radiant, with smiling, trembling lips, with big, dark eyes and an air of listening, waiting for something … divine to happen … that she knew must happen … infallibly.’ Katherine Mansfield, Bliss (1918)

Several critics have identified Bertha’s intense feeling of bliss as a symbol of her awakened desire for Harry, and/or Pearl. Although it is not explicitly evident, at first, exactly what is fuelling this ‘shower of sparks’ in her bosom the extensive use of the ‘fire’ and heat metaphors can be described as being synonymous with sexual passion and desire. It begins with the description of her bliss as ‘though you’d suddenly swallowed a piece of that bright afternoon sun and it burned in your bosom… little shower of sparks’, and continues ‘… passionately, passionately… the fire in her bosom.’

Continue reading “A Queer Reading of Katherine Mansfield’s ‘Bliss’”