Frances Restuccia

Boston College

Professor of English at Boston College, Frances L. Restuccia teaches contemporary theory, modernism, and novels of the non-Western world.  She is the author of James Joyce and the Law of the Father (Yale UP); Melancholics in Love: Representing Women’s Depression and Domestic Abuse (Rowman & Littlefield); Amorous Acts: Lacanian Ethics in Modernism, Film, and Queer Theory (Stanford UP); The Blue Box: Kristevan/Lacanian Readings of Contemporary Film (Continuum), and Agamben’s Political Ontology of Nudity in Literature and Art (Routledge). She has published essays on authors such as Austen, Wharton, Woolf, Forster, Greene, Kundera, Sebald, Pamuk, Cha, Antoon, Gide, and Saint Augustine.  She served for five years on the MLA Executive Division Committee on Psychology, Psychoanalysis, and Literature and has co-chaired the Psychoanalytic Practices seminar at the Harvard Mahindra Humanities Center for decades.  She is currently working on the psychoanalytic underpinnings of Afropessimism.

Speaking at the conference

Saturday, 24 September, 11am, Kosovel Hall

Burning Down the Ship from ‘the Inside Out”: Afropessimism’s Ethics of the Real

My talk will stitch together the pieces of Lacanian analysis of blackness in Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks (1952) and Wilderson’s Afropessimism (2020) and explore the question of “Black desire” (Wilderson’s phrase) as it pertains to Lacanian ethics.  While Fanon offers his text as a mirror for Blacks to look into (as opposed to Wilderson’s mirror, invaded by a nightmare), Wilderson leaves Blacks in Fanon’s inferno, from which revolutionary desire has the potential to erupt.  The Ethics of Psychoanalysis serves as a model on which Wilderson seems predicated.  Like Antigone, Afropessimism is “a turning point” in the field of ethics.  Lacan poses the same question about Antigone that Wilderson poses regarding the Black:  “What does it mean . . . [to] go beyond the limits of the human?”  After laying out Fanon’s notion that “the black . . . is not,” Marriott’s conception of ab-sens as blackness, and Wilderson’s idea of the Black as Slave, I use and then also reverse Žižek’s notion of parallax to suggest that the shift—which these theorists call for, in the (black) phobogenic nightmare/object (petrified by the “white gaze”)—can effect not only collapse of the (white) subject (as it pulls the black rug out from under it) but also a dissolution of the subject-object (racist) structure.  As the object resists its reification (parallax), refusing to accept its relegation to social death, through confrontation with and ownership of the Real hell that especially Wilderson’s Fanonian/Lacanian work insists on, the entire edifice will undergo a sea change (reverse parallax).  N’est pas metamorphoses into Nothing; the infernal abyss into an essential void.  Herein lies the revolutionary desire—which can only arise through an “absolute condition”—that Afropessimism, in the spirit of Antigone, hopes it will ignite.  “Social death can be destroyed,” writes Wilderson, once the ship or plantation is burned “from the inside out.”

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