Figural Exhaustion: Parodying the Figures of Ethiopia

Roy Kay

in The Ethiopian Prophecy in Black American Letters

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780813037325
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813041582 | DOI:
Figural Exhaustion: Parodying the Figures of Ethiopia

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This chapter demonstrates the ebb and flow of the figure of Ethiopia in nineteenth- and twentieth-century black American letters. During various moments in these centuries, the figure of Ethiopia was parodied, disfigured, and reconfigured. In Douglass's Reconstruction-era writings, Ethiopia is a wandering beggar who is perpetually economically and socially dependent, a figure of ridicule. Ellison, seventy years later, disfigures Ethiopia and mocks the narratives of God's providential plans for the Negro and the idea of Negro racial fraternity. Emotionally and psychologically shattered characters, with perverse poetic imaginations, make the two allusions to Psalm 68:31 in Invisible Man. Douglass's and Ellison's parodies indicate the institutional status of Ethiopian figures in black letters and their malleable nature. The figure of Ethiopia can be reconfigured to critique Ethiopian figurations.

Keywords: black American letters; Douglass; Ellison; figure of Ethiopia; imagination; parody; Psalm 68:31; reconfigure

Chapter.  5368 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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