Deadpan: The Aesthetics of Black Inexpression (Paperback)

Deadpan: The Aesthetics of Black Inexpression By Tina Post Cover Image
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Winner of the 2023 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism
Winner of the 2023 ASAP Book Prize, given by the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present

Explores expressionlessness, inscrutability, and emotional withholding in Black cultural production

Arguing that inexpression is a gesture that acquires distinctive meanings in concert with blackness, Deadpan tracks instances and meanings of deadpan--a vaudeville term meaning "dead face"--across literature, theater, visual and performance art, and the performance of self in everyday life.

Tina Post reveals that the performance of purposeful withholding is a critical tool in the work of black culture makers, intervening in the persistent framing of African American aesthetics as colorful, loud, humorous, and excessive. Beginning with the expressionless faces of mid-twentieth-century documentary photography and proceeding to early twenty-first-century drama, this project examines performances of blackness's deadpan aesthetic within and beyond black embodiments, including Young Jean Lee's The Shipment and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins's Neighbors, as well as Buster Keaton's signature character and Steve McQueen's restitution of the former's legacy within the continuum of Black cultural production.

Through this varied archive, Post reveals how deadpan aesthetics function in and between opacity and fugitivity, minimalism and saturation, excess and insensibility.

About the Author

Tina Post is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Chicago.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781479811212
ISBN-10: 1479811211
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication Date: January 10th, 2023
Pages: 280
Language: English