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The Global Studies Seminar presents “Haunted Houses of the Black Atlantic” by Denison University’s Professor of English Diana Adesola Mafe.
Mafe will speak on her current book project, “Haunted Houses of the Black Atlantic,” the first comprehensive study of the haunted house in Anglophone African and African diaspora literatures and cinema. This ongoing project, which was the focus of Mafe’s recent sabbatical, considers the ways in which Black writers and artists across centuries and regions have engaged with this trope, often as a means of subverting expectations of what constitutes a terrifying place. The eerie, the uncanny, and the macabre have long been used by writers of the Black diaspora to critique histories of white supremacy. Gothic iconography, especially the haunted house, carries a different symbolic weight in Black imaginaries. The theorist Paul Gilroy uses the image of “ships in motion” as an organizing symbol for the Black Atlantic. For Mafe’s book, it is the haunted house that serves as a central motif in this cultural and geographic setting. The presentation will focus on just two of the many “haunted house” texts covered in the book: Ottobah Cugoano’s abolitionist treatise, “Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species” (1787), and Frederick Douglass’s second autobiography, “My Bondage and My Freedom” (1855).
Mafe teaches courses in postcolonial, gender, and Black studies. Her work tracks the literary and cinematic roles of and for women of color in African and diasporic discourses. Her current research focuses on representations of race and gender in speculative fiction with a special emphasis on the gothic. She has published two books, “Where No Black Woman Has Gone Before: Subversive Portrayals in Speculative Film and TV” (University of Texas Press, 2018) and “Mixed Race Stereotypes in South African and American Literature: Coloring Outside the (Black and White) Lines” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). She has also published articles in MELUS, African American Review, Camera Obscura, Journal of Popular Culture, Research in African Literatures, American Drama, English Academy Review, Frontiers, Safundi, and African Women Writing Resistance.