Encountering the Face of the OtherAuteur : Keith MITCHELL
At the center of Percival Everett’s oeuvre has been an interrogation of ethical dimensions that seek to put forth profound questions of identity and how human beings relate to one another on the basis of what we think we know about the other, primarily through visual cues based on race. Of course, race, ethics, and inter-human relationships in America have been at the forefront of the African American literary tradition—from Phillis Wheatley to the present. Everett’s 1994 novel God’s Country employs satire and parody of the American Western in order to interrogate past and present breaches of inter-human ethics, particularly white America’s unethical treatment of African Americans and Native Americans. This essay seeks to read Everett’s ethical stance through the theoretical lens of Emmanuel Levinas’ ideas surrounding encounters with “the face of the other” and our (potential) responsibility for the other. In God’s Country, I argue that the face-to-face encounter between Curt Marder, the white racist cowboy, and Bubba, the African American tracker whom Marder hires to find his kidnapped wife, Sadie, follows closely many of the ethico-philosophical ideas that Emmanuel Levinas theorizes and expounds in such important works as Alterity and Transcendence, Humanism of the Other, and Ethics and Infinity.
Keith Mitchell is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He is the coeditor, along with Professor Robin Vander, of the recently published essay collection Perspectives on Percival Everett (University Press of Mississippi, 2013). This is the first collection of essays published in the United States on Everett’s work. A second collection of essay on Percival Everett titled Percival Everett Writing Other/Wise and also co-edited with Professor Robin Vander will be published by the Xavier Review Press in the fall of 2013. He is also the coeditor of Afterthe Pain: Critical Essays on Gayl Jones (2006), the first collection of essays published on this important African-American writer. He is also coeditor ofXavier Review. Special Issue. “Reading the Intersections of Sex and Spirit in the Creative Arts” (2007), and book chapters, articles, and reviews in Obsidian III: Literature in the African Disapora, The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, Southern Writers: A New Biographical Dictionary, The Bryn Mawr Review of Comparative Literature, Oyster Boy Review, and other publications.
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Keith MITCHELL « Encountering the Face of the Other »,
Lectures du Monde Anglophone / LMA, 1, 2015,
© Publications Electroniques de l’ERIAC, 2015.