Spirit in the Dark: A Religious History of Racial Aesthetics

ISBN : 9780199844937

Josef Sorett
312 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Sep 2016
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Many of the most important black intellectual movements of the second half of the twentieth century were perceived as secular, if not profane. When religion has figured into scholarly accounts of these moments, it has almost always appeared as tangential or inconsequential. In Spirit in the Dark, Josef Sorett upends this narrative by exploring the ways in which religion continued to animate and organize African American literary visions throughout the years between the New Negro Renaissance of the 1920s and the Black Arts movement of the 1960s. Sorett unveils the contours of a literary history that remained preoccupied with religion even as it was typically understood, by authors, readers and critics alike, to be secular. In doing so, he reveals how religion, especially Christianity, remained pivotal to the very ideas and aspirations of African American literature across much of the twentieth century. More specifically, Sorett shows that religion and spirituality are key categories for identifying what is (or is not) perceived to constitute or contribute to a black culture. By examining figures and movements that have typically been cast as "secular," he offers theoretical insights that blur the boundaries of the "sacred" in scholarship on African American religion and culture. Ultimately, Spirit in the Dark reveals religion to be an essential ingredient, albeit one that was always questioned and contested, to the forging of an African American literary tradition.


Prologue and Acknowledgements
Introduction: Church, Spirit, and the History of Racial Aesthetics
1. The Church and the Negro Spirit
2. Ancestral Spirits
3. Catholic Spirits
4. As the Spirit Moves
5. An International Spirit
6. That Spirit is Black
7. Contrary Spirits
Epilogue: You Can't Keep a Good Church Down!

About the author: 

Josef Sorett is Assistant Professor of Religion and African-American Studies at Columbia University, where he is also directs the Center for African-American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice.

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