Thursday night’s 6 p.m. tour of the ever-provocative Kara Walker show should provide enough fodder for a lively 7 p.m. discussion of the equally provocative novel The Known World by Edward P. Jones. But just in case you need further cerebral stimulation to get the neural synapses firing at top speed, we provide the following catalysts:
1) Kara Walker’s work seems to revolve around issues of race, gender, sex, class, domination, subservience, and power, as examined through the social institution of slavery. How are these issues further complicated by the novel’s depiction of “freed blacks” as slave owners?
2) Ms. Walker cites The Known World as an influence and describes it as “slow and drawling and rich.” Why are both artists (Walker and Jones) so fascinated with images of the pre-Civil War South?
3) Both artists focus a great deal of attention on sexuality, and use it as a metaphor with broader social implications. How does the sexual relationship depicted in the novel between black female slave owner (Caledonia) and black male slave (Moses) further compound an already complicated dynamic?
4) Recent discussions at The Artist’s Bookshelf regarding Toni Morrison’s Beloved revealed a self-avowed ignorance on the part of many members regarding American history in general, and the intricacies of slavery as a social institution in particular. Works such as those by Walker, Morrison, and Jones force us to confront that ignorance head-on, and demand that we re-examine the legacy of slavery from a fresh perspective. What insights can be gained from such artistic “confrontations”?
5) The title of the novel The Known World comes literally from a map hanging in the sheriff’s office. What is the significance and/or irony of that title?
We could spend the entire evening on any one of these questions. But as always, we’ll try to keep things moving along at a lively pace.
In addition, we will have a very special announcement regarding future Bookshelf selections.