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The African American Roots of ModernismFrom Reconstruction to the Harlem Renaissance$
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James Smethurst

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780807834633

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807878088_smethurst

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Dueling Banjos

Dueling Banjos

African American Dualism and Strategies for Black Representation at the Turn of the Century

(p.27) Chapter One Dueling Banjos
The African American Roots of Modernism

James Smethurst

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter discusses Paul Gilroy's claim that the notion of double consciousness in which the black subject “ever feels his twoness” was used by W. E. B. Du Bois to figure a diasporic and sometimes transatlantic black modernity expressing the ambivalent location of people of African descent simultaneously within and beyond what is known as “the West.” Certainly, Du Bois's articulation of dualism, largely drawing on the language of William James and early U.S. psychology, has remained a powerful trope available to a wide range of artists and intellectuals both inside and outside the United States down to the present. To understand why Du Bois's formulation of the concept had such force, however, one has to examine the relationship of his formulation to similar expressions of African American dualism, within the political and cultural context in which these various articulations appeared.

Keywords:   Paul Gilroy, double consciousness, twoness, Du Bois, black modernity, West

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