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Encountering Mason Ellis: Therapeutic Selfhood in Clarence Major’s My Amputations

Fri, November 9, 12:00 to 1:45pm, Westin Peachtree, Seventh, Augusta D (Seventh)

Abstract

My Amputations (1986) makes light of the 1970s Encounter movement, sending its picaresque leading man off to seek existential relief in the form of bodily harm and humiliation. The critique of back to the body therapeutics is outrageous, hilarious, and off-putting. It is also not the whole story. Through his precise use of formal elements, Clarence Major both invites his audience to laugh at a black man’s attempts to self-actualize and, in turn, questions the core assumptions that might lead us to find such a proposition amusing. In Major’s blocks of prose we find the 1970s Encounter movement in all its silliness, but also this question: who in the “me generation” can afford to get back to basics, to strip themselves of social inhibition? Whose body can be said to exist under and before the weight of modern life and thus can be prized as a retreat from the pain of living?

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