Matthew Omelsky F'17
Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships 2017
Fugitive Time: Black Culture and Utopian Desire
This project examines how African diasporic writers and filmmakers from Zimbabwe, Martinique, Britain, and the United States inscribe into their works a sense of anticipation of release from subjection, as if to experience in advance the feeling of unequivocal bodily relief. Charting its appearance in both descriptive content and aesthetic form—such as metaphor, narrative structure, and aspects of cinematic editing—“Fugitive Time” shows how this recurring form of utopian time-consciousness distinct to African diasporic cultural expression evolves from the eighteenth-century slave narrative to the contemporary novel, and how it mutates across disparate global geographies. Examining epic poetry, autobiography, experimental film, and historical novels, the project isolates this fugitive anticipation of the outside of subjection and the persistent memory of violence that engenders it. In these works, utopia, however elusive, lies in that moment when the body at last finds release.