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Bibler, Michael (2010)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects: T700
Kara Walker describes her book After the Deluge (2007) as “rumination” on Hurricane Katrina structured in the form of a “visual essay.” The book combines Walker's own artwork and the works of other artists into “a narrative of fluid symbols” in which the overarching analogy of “murky, toxic waters” holds the potential to “become the amniotic fluid of a potentially new and difficult birth.” This essay considers Walker's use of history within this collection of images to show how the book opens up ways to interrogate Katrina's particular significance as a wholly new, and yet eerily familiar, historical “event.” Nuancing a reading of Walker's book with reference to James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time (1963), to which After the Deluge implicitly alludes, the essay examines Walker's artistic challenge to the notion that history is a narratable account of a past that precedes the present and demonstrates how that challenge encourages us to think about the potential uses of history within civil rights discourse after Katrina.
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    • 1 James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (London : Penguin Books, 1990 ; first published 1963), 71. Hereafter cited by page numbers in the text.
    • 10 Clyde Woods, '' Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans ? Katrina, Trap Economics, and the Rebirth of the Blues, '' American Quarterly, 57, 4 (2005), 1005-18, 1007.
    • 11 Blume, '' Q&A with Kara Walker. ''
    • 12 Philippe Vergne, '' The Black Saint Is the Sinner Lady, '' in idem, ed., Kara Walker : My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love (Minneapolis : Walker Art Center, 2007), 22, 23.
    • 13 Kevin Young, '' Triangular Trade : Coloring, Remarking, and Narrative in the Writings of Kara Walker, '' in Vergne, Kara Walker, 45.
    • 14 Deak Nabers, '' Past Using : James Baldwin and Civil Rights Law in the 1960s, '' Yale Journal of Criticism, 18, 2 (2005), 221-42, 227, original emphasis. 15 Ibid., 234-35.
    • 16 Ibid., 236-37.
    • 19 Woods, 1005.
    • 20 Roberta Smith, '' Kara Walker Makes Contrasts in Silhouette in Her Own Met Show, '' New York Times, 24 March 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/24/arts/design/ 24walk.html?_r=1&oref=slogin#.
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