Anthony Stewart’s “The Desire for the End of Race: Barthes, Everett, and the Belief in the Postracial” deploys Roland Barthes’s theories of myth and mythology to draw a distinction between the desire for the end of racism, against which there can be little argument, and the desire for the end of race, which brings with it no commitment to social justice, but instead a simple and perhaps strategic negation of the realities that come with racial injustice. A desire for the end of race means merely that fewer Americans will be required to think or talk about race and its consequences.
Barthes’s notion of myth enables a consideration of how perpetual the desire for the end of race as a topic of discussion has been in twentieth and now twenty-first century American history. Myth is the overarching story by which all other individual stories are subsumed, and the end of race is that story. The “postracial” is merely the latest expression of this perpetual American desire. But once we recognize the perpetual nature of this story, Americans may be better positioned to engage with the story critically and constructively.
Stewart applies his reading of the desire for the end of race to an analysis of Percival Everett’s 2011 novel, Assumption, in which the understandable readerly desire for order and the ability to rely upon conventional archetypes fall prey to the novelist as mythologist, the position Barthes proposes as the opponent of the workings of myth. The concluding revelation of Assumption demonstrates just how comprehensive and limiting our desires for counterfactual states of being—like the postracial—can be.
The Percival Everett International Society requests submissions for its panels at the annual conference of the American Literature Association. Submissions will present fresh perspectives on any aspect of Everett’s work, with an emphasis on, but not limited to, his earliest or most recent work.
Please submit brief proposals of no more than 250 words to Anne-Laure Tissut (email@example.com) by January 6, 2017, so that they can be reviewed before the conference proposal deadline. Selections will be made by the end of January 2017.
Call for Papers for a Panel on Percival Everett and the American West at the 2017 American Literature Association Meeting (Boston; May 25-28)
NPR’s All Things Considered, as part of an interview about his latest collection of short stories Half an Inch of Water (set mostly in Wyoming), introduced Percival Everett as “a man of the West: the region, for him, is a place of calm and comfort, danger and extremes.” He is a two-time winner of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards for Fiction, a recent recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction, the author of around 30 books (novels, short stories, poetry), including the parodic genre western God’s Country, as well as multiple books set in the American West, including Suder, Walk Me to the Distance, Watershed, Wounded, The Water Cure, and Assumption. No other contemporary African American author has accomplished as extensive (and complex) a representation of African American western experience.
This panel will consider and explore Percival Everett’s writing about the American West. Individual papers might examine the relationship between race and region in Everett’s writing; Everett as a (western) genre writer; landscape and environment in Everett’s writing; erasure in Everett’s western texts; or other topics that examine the relationship between Percival Everett’s work and the American West or the western genre.
For consideration for this panel, please submit an abstract (250-500 words) to Michael K. Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org) by December 30, 2016
The American Literature Association’s 28th annual conference will meet at the Westin Copley Place in Boston on May 25-28, 2017 (Thursday through Sunday of Memorial Day weekend).
For further information about the American Literature Association conference, please consult the ALA website at www.americanliterature.org.
Percival Everett once more provides evidence of being not only one of America’s best authors but also one of its more prolific. Due out in September from Graywolf Press is a collection of stories entitled Half an Inch of Water, and a new poetry collection will follow in November from Red Hen Press. The working title for the poetry tome was “Against Sense,” but it will be published as Trout’s Lie. So be prepared for the act of fishing to experience yet another collision on the printed page of an Everett text with matters philosophical.
Eight new essays on Everett’s work are slated for release within days from Xavier Review Press in Percival Everett: Writing Other/Wise, a new collection from editors Keith Mitchell and Robin Vander, whose editorial collaboration last year brought us Perspectives on Percival Everett (UP of Mississippi). The new tome also features a short essay by Everett about his visual art, along with reproductions of several of his paintings.
The book opens with a fine piece by the editors that not only introduces the essays which follow but effectively positions Everett as an innovative writer whose work eludes easy classification and challenges prevailing assumptions about what art produced by African Americans is, or should be. Other contributions to this wide-ranging collection include Sylvie Bauer writing on Zulus, Amee Carmines on Frenzy, Keith Mitchell on Levinasian ethics in God’s Country, Beauty Bragg on Everett and Kincaid’s History of the African-American People [Proposed] by Strom Thurmond, Timothy Mark Robinson on Glyph as a neo-slave narrative, Sha-shonda Porter on erasure, and S. Isabel Geathers on Everett’s important, if underappreciated, poetry collection Abstraktion und Einfühlung. Percival Everett: Writing Other/Wise deserves the attention of every scholar and true fan of Everett’s œuvre. (JW)