Welcome to the Comment and Question Submission page for "Blackening the Books: 
The Abiding ‘Africanist Presence’ in the Pre- and Early Modern English Literary Canon," a session to be held at the 2015 BABEL Biennial Meeting to be held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

All survey responses will be recorded anonymously. The session organizer will choose as many submissions as possible to be addressed during the session’s Question and Answer period in Toronto. 

Submissions are truly anonymous. Respondents should feel free to ask any question or assert any point of view they wish without fear of judgment or repercussion. Sometimes it is only through anonymity that the most useful conversations can be had.

If you would like to learn more about the "Blackening the Books" session, scroll to the end of the survey first. This is not necessary before answering the survey questions.

Please answer as many of the following questions as you like (at least 3). To answer all eight questions should take no more than 5 minutes. And please submit a question for us.

Thank you for your time!

* 1. Does the study of older literature matter in the modern world? Why or why not?

* 2. What is blackness?

* 3. Can (or should) blackness in literature be thought of as something apart from race?

* 4. Can the study of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Marlowe, or Milton benefit from thinking about the history of people of color in England, Western Europe and the Americas? If so, how?

* 5. What comes to mind when you hear the phrases “Black Chaucer,” “Black Shakespeare,” or “Black Milton”?

* 6. Is blackness (in people or things, as an abstract notion or as an actual physical color) a valid lens through which to view English literature from the 1400s, 1500s, and 1600s?  Why or why not?

* 7. Does the study of blackness matter in the modern world? Why or why not?

* 8. How might the study of blackness in the medieval and early modern periods be significant for our contemporary understandings of blackness?

* 9.
A description of the session follows: It is only through the distinction between the white space of the page and the black pigment of ink that words become visible. It is only in contrast and distinction that meaning issues forth from books. In Playing in the Dark, her study of the relevance of blackness to American literature, Toni Morrison argues that a “dark, abiding, and signing Africanist presence” animates canonical American literature. She calls for future “studies that analyze the strategic use of black characters to define the goals and enhance the qualities of white characters..., [that] will reveal the process of establishing others in order to know them, to display knowledge of the other so as to ease and to order external and internal chaos.” What if this “dark, abiding, and signing” presence extends back beyond the dawn of American modernity? What if Morrison’s temporal location of the Africanist presence ought to be rethought according to criticisms such as Geraldine Heng’s: that race studies suffers from “[a] blind spot...a cognitive lag that makes theory unable to step back any further than the Renaissance”? While an increasing amount of work in medieval and early modern studies makes a point of exploring the roles of black and white bodies in texts that participate in Christian crusading and European colonizing discourses, this panel seeks to go further: recognizing the importance of bodies in literature, this panel will also consider blackness as that which creates and transmits meaning. Panel participants will ask, what are the connections between blackness in the body, in the ink, in damage to the page—even the metaphorical ‘blackness’ of historical lacunae, voids, that shroud literary history—and the abiding Africanist presence? Papers will consider whether to ‘blacken the books’ is at once to shroud aspects of literary meaning, including the Africanist presence, in shadow and mystery; to recognize their hiddenness; and necessary in order to create, reveal, and transmit meaning. The panel will ask: what are the implications for medieval and early modern studies, race studies, and literary study on the whole if blackness is a manifestation of hiddenness and revelation, of that which resists analysis and the very stuff of analysis itself? Finally, the panel will ask, should the books—especially medieval and early modern books—be blackened after all?

Please ask a question (or several) that you would like addressed during "Blackening the Books."