Cover: Being Property Once Myself: Blackness and the End of Man, from Harvard University PressCover: Being Property Once Myself in HARDCOVER

Being Property Once Myself

Blackness and the End of Man

This trenchant work of literary criticism examines the complex ways 20th- and 21st-century African American authors have written about animals. In Bennett’s analysis, Richard Wright, Toni Morrison, Jesmyn Ward, and others subvert the racist comparisons that have ‘been used against them as a tool of derision and denigration.’… An intense and illuminating reevaluation of black literature and Western thought.—Ron Charles, Washington Post

A gripping work… Bennett’s lyrical lilt in his sharp analyses makes for a thorough yet accessible read… Adds to a growing body of critical work that tackles social issues in relation to the realm of ‘nature,’ pushing back simultaneously against the whiteness of both literary studies and ecocriticism.—Lydia Ayame Hiraide, LSE Review of Books

By turns leading-edge and unaffected, revelatory and understated, Bennett appears much less concerned to prove that his chops as a critic and theorist are equal to his poetic abilities… By way of close readings of some well-established, and a few wholly unnoticed, scenes of black/Animal apposition or relationality, Bennett’s Being Property shares in the ensemblic turn toward black ecological criticism and theory exploring blackness, animality, ground-life, and philosophical posthumanism… Bennett stands to add many more fans to the crowd of us who’ve relished his poetic talents over many years.—Maurice Wallace, S-USIH: Society for U.S. Intellectual History

Bennett writes so beautifully that it hurts. Imagine a world of animals—rats, cocks, mules, and dogs—that prompt renewed ways of seeing, thinking, and living beyond cages or chains. These absorbing, deeply moving pages bring to life a newly reclaimed ethics, and black feeling beyond the claims of property or propriety.—Colin Dayan, author of With Dogs at the Edge of Life and The Law Is a White Dog

Being Property Once Myself is destined to be an event. Exhilarating and original, it is as much a work of literary history as it is of literary theory, as much a poetic invocation as it is critical intervention, and as much about animals as it is about people, elegantly uniting the many singularities that constitute, collectively, black literary culture.—Akira Mizuta Lippit, author of Electric Animal: Toward a Rhetoric of Wildlife

A tremendously illuminating study of how black writers wrestle with black precarity. Bennett’s refreshing and field-defining approach shows how both classic and contemporary African American authors undo long-held assumptions of the animal–human divide.—Salamishah Tillet, author of Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the Post–Civil Rights Imagination

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