Next Event


The 20th & 21st Century Cultures Workshop is pleased to welcome:

Rachel Willis

PhD Student, Department of English Language and Literature

When all that comes is sadness: theorizing black feminist melancholia

Tuesday May 30, from 5:00-6:30 pm  

Walker 403

with respondent Rivky Mondal, PhD Candidate
Department of English Language and Literature, University of Chicago

This paper takes up melancholia as a conceptual scaffolding to theorize a relationship between subjectivity and ontology on black feminist terms. Performing two case studies of short fiction by black feminist writers—Angelina Weld Grimké’s 1919 “The Closing Door” and Lorraine Hansberry’s 1958 “Chanson du Konallis,”  I examine how Grimké and Hansberry depicted insecure or ‘haunted’ subjectivities which we might characterize as melancholic, subjectivities menaced by the persistent threat of ontologico-political negation. In doing so, I take seriously Audre Lorde’s proclamation that “we have been sad long enough to make this earth either weep or grow fertile,” in order to ask what fertility or potentiality might spring forth from black feminist melancholia, opening up ontological territories imagined beyond the humanist framework of subjectivity.

Rachels’s paper (to be read in advance) can be found here. The password will be circulated on our listserv.

Our meetings are open to the University of Chicago community and visitors who comply with University of Chicago vaccination requirements. We are committed to making our workshop fully accessible for people with disabilities. Please direct any questions and concerns to the workshop coordinators, Cassandra Lerer ( and Chris Gortmaker (