“This Morning I Read as Angels Read”: Self-Creation, Aesthetics, and the Crisis of Black Politics in W.E.B. Du Bois’s Dark Princess

  • Ulf Schulenberg


In this chapter, Schulenberg discusses W.E.B. Du Bois’s second novel Dark Princess: A Romance (1928). Throughout his long career, one of the primary concerns of this African American scholar, activist, and artist was to politicize the aesthetic or to advocate the aesthetic as political practice. However, it is argued that Dark Princess is governed by a too rigid private-public separation, and that the latter prevents the author from realizing the idea of an innovative and progressive leftist politics in his novel. This also means that the novel does not fully explore the development from finding to making and that its author employs a rather traditional understanding of aesthetic form. In his novel, Du Bois introduces the idea of a leftist cosmopolitanism as an effective means of confronting the crisis of black leftist politics, but his text does not answer a question that is of the utmost importance: Where is the poets’ place in this leftist cosmopolitanism, transnational radical politics, or Afro-Asian international?


  1. Barbey D’Aurevilly, J. (1988). Dandyism (D. Ainslie, Trans.; Q. Crisp, Preface). New York: PAJ Publications.Google Scholar
  2. Baudelaire, C. (2006). Selected Writings on Art and Literature (P. E. Charvet, Trans.). New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  3. Bhabha, H. K. (2010). Introduction. In W. E. B. Du Bois, Dark Princess: A Romance (pp. xxv–xxxi). New York: Oxford UP.Google Scholar
  4. Du Bois, W. E. B. (1924). The Younger Literary Movement. In N. Huggins (Ed.), W.E.B. Du Bois: Writings (pp. 1208–1210). New York: Library of America, 1996.Google Scholar
  5. Du Bois, W. E. B. (1926). Criteria of Negro Art. In N. Huggins (Ed.), W.E.B. Du Bois: Writings (pp. 993–1002). New York: Library of America, 1996.Google Scholar
  6. Du Bois, W. E. B. (1928). Dark Princess: A Romance. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1995.Google Scholar
  7. Du Bois, W. E. B. (1931). The Negro and Communism. In D. L. Lewis (Ed.), W.E.B. Du Bois: A Reader (pp. 583–593). New York: Henry Holt, 1995.Google Scholar
  8. Du Bois, W. E. B. (1940). Dusk of Dawn. In N. Huggins (Ed.), W.E.B. Du Bois: Writings (pp. 549–802). New York: Library of America, 1996.Google Scholar
  9. Du Bois, W. E. B. (2008). The Quest of the Silver Fleece. 1911. Mineola, NY: Dover.Google Scholar
  10. Foucault, M. (1982). Technologies of the Self. In Michel Foucault: Ethics, Subjectivity, and Truth (pp. 223–252) (P. Rabinow, Ed.; R. Hurley & Others, Trans.). New York: The New Press, 1997.Google Scholar
  11. Gilroy, P. (1993). The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP.Google Scholar
  12. Larsen, N. (2001). The Complete Fiction of Nella Larsen. New York: Anchor Books.Google Scholar
  13. Miller, M. L. (2009). Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity. Durham, NC: Duke UP.Google Scholar
  14. Posnock, R. (1995). The Distinction of Du Bois: Aesthetics, Pragmatism, Politics. American Literary History, 3(3), 500–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Posnock, R. (1998). Color & Culture: Black Writers and the Making of the Modern Intellectual. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP.Google Scholar
  16. Rorty, R. (1989). Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. New York: Cambridge UP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. West, C. (1989). The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. West, C. (1996). Black Strivings in a Twilight Civilization. In H. L. Gates Jr. & C. West (Eds.), The Future of the Race (pp. 53–112). New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  19. West, C. (2004). Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight against Imperialism. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ulf Schulenberg
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BremenBremenGermany

Personalised recommendations