SaRah wymaN Beyond the Veil IndeterminacyandIconoclasmintheArtofRobertHayden, JanetKozachek,andTomFeelings i. Robert Hayden employs innovative modes of signification to unveil and expose race-based violence in the United States. In "Night, Death, Mississippi" (1966) he defies bildverbot1 traditions, or the customary injunction against representing the sacred or, in secular times, the secret. This policy pertains to what must not be shown because it lies beyond the reach of representation (traditionally, God or the Shoah) and also applies to what must not be shown because its portrayal undermines hegemonic ideologies that maintain and naturalize systems of oppression (as in the phenomena of lynching and slavery). Some topics are designated unspeakable, "beyond the veil," or simply lack first-hand witnesses. Yet, this barred access or knowledge gap due to iconoclastic tendencies in the culture does not inhibit a poet accustomed to poetry's mode of meaning by indirection. While we live in a time of relative freedom of speech and expression, vestiges of the prohibition against depicting unrepresentable subject matter have led writers and artists to seek alternate aesthetic strategies that insist on historical and contemporary realities even as they dismantle conventional realism. Hayden's innovative portrayal of the ostensibly obscene (ob scaena) matter of a death
The Comparatist – University of North Carolina Press
Published: May 19, 2012
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