Black Nonsense (Or, Black Radical Utterances in the Idiom of Madness)

Department: Culture and Theory

Date and Time: February 10, 2022 | 5:00 PM-6:30 PM

Event Location: Online

Event Details

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Center for Medical Humanities presents their second event in their “Mental Health in a Time of Pandemic” series. Professor Bruce’s talk begins with a meditation on “mad” black captives in the novels and short stories of Richard Wright, Gayl Jones, and Ntozake Shange. While confined in jails and psychiatric hospitals, these captives use idioms of madness to critique the antiblack and antimad worlds around them. As Professor Bruce theorizes, an idiom of madness is a mode of radical utterance that is incomprehensible to normative logics, that is inaudible to rational hearing, that subverts the grammars of “Reason.” Mad utterances are typically misheard, muted, and maligned as rant, rave, ramble, and nonsense. However, they are capable of roaring truth to power with devastating effect.

Throughout his remarks, Professor Bruce centers a mad methodology—where madness informs and animates ways of reading, ways of thinking, ways of feeling, ways of telling, ways of being, and ways of life. In the process, he hopes to model the study and practice of radical, critical, ethical madness.

La Marr Jurelle Bruce, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park and the author of How to Go Mad without Losing Your Mind: Madness and Black Radical Creativity (Duke University Press, 2021).

This event is co-sponsored by the Department of African American Studies.