Happiness is not always fun”: Caryl Phillips’s Crossing the River, part IV(1993) and the BBC Radio Dramatization “Somewhere In England” (2016), Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1975) and Robert Colescott's My Shadow (1977) and Knowledge of the past is key to the Future, (St Sebastian) (1986)

Abstract : Robert H. Colescott's paintings My Shadow (1977) and Knowledge of the Past is the Key to the Future (St Sebastian) (1986) point to the taboo of mixed-race relationships. The question seemed topical enough for the painter to repeatedly question the terror linked to the evocation of "miscegenation" in the United States in his vivid renderings of triumphant or defeated lovers challenging white supremacism. The intermedial convergence between these works and Rainer Werner Fassbinder's film Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Angst essen Seele auf) (1974) also illuminates Caryl Phillips's overall concern, as stated in his introduction to The Shelter (1984), that "[...] the story of the black man and the white woman in the Western world is bound together with the secure tape of a troubled history; and the relationship between the black man and the white woman has always provoked the greatest conflict, the most fear, the most loathing" (10). In Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974), Fassbinder carefully examines the plight of a mixed couple in a Germany that is still haunted by Nazi white supremacist ideology, while Phillips, in "Somewhere in England," the fourth part of his novel Crossing the River (1993) and its 2016 rewriting for a BBC radio play, focuses on the thwarted love between an African-American GI and a white English villager during WWII. I will point to striking parallels in these different works such as the motif of the interracial dancing couple, central to both versions of Philips's story and also present in Colescott's and Fassbinder's works. Indeed, dancing is often used in Phillips's plays and novels to delineate, within a momentarily pacified Black Atlantic, a space of emotional resistance defying social constraints, 1 with the changing music a period marker that reveals the persistence over time of conflict, fear and loathing around embattled lovers. The three artists record the interplay of emotions in works that converge towards the building of aesthetic empathy and, through that, of social empathy and healing, as indicated most explicitly by Phillips's revisiting of "Somewhere in England" as a radio play twenty-three years after the publication of Crossing the River.
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Josiane Ranguin. Happiness is not always fun”: Caryl Phillips’s Crossing the River, part IV(1993) and the BBC Radio Dramatization “Somewhere In England” (2016), Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1975) and Robert Colescott's My Shadow (1977) and Knowledge of the past is key to the Future, (St Sebastian) (1986). Lectures du monde anglophone, ERIAC - EA 4705, In press, Caryl Phillips: Inhabiting the Voids of History, Lectures du Monde Anglophone, Université de Rouen, n° 4. (4). ⟨hal-02021610⟩

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