Close Reading: Claudia Rankine
Together with Pelumi Adejumo we delve into the work of Claudia Rankine through her recently published play The White Card. This short play was written as a way to address whiteness in conversations about race through a brilliantly crafted conversation around a dinner table. Through its characters we are given the opportunity to reflect on the positions we take in conversations on anti-racism and the limits of empathy and sentimentality. Posing the question: can (American) society progress when whiteness remains invisible?
Reading, a lonely occupation?
Curling up with a good book is something you generally do on your own, right? But reading doesn’t have to be an individual, let alone lonely activity. Like our new ‘Leesclubdelecture’, this series of ‘Close Readings’ proves the opposite.
A ‘Close Reading’ is a reading club without any preparatory reading work. During a close reading a central guest reads excerpts from a work close to their heart. Together with this passionate moderator, a small group of participants dives into the text, discussing literary forms and political issues that matter today.
Claudia Rankine’s play The White Card stages a conversation that is both informed and derailed by the black/white American drama. The scenes in this one-act play, for all the characters' disagreements, stalemates, and seeming impasses, explore what happens if one is willing to stay in the room when it is painful to bear the pressure to listen and the obligation to respond.
Composed of two scenes, the play opens with a dinner party thrown by Virginia and Charles, an influential Manhattan couple, for the up-and-coming artist Charlotte. Their conversation about art and representations of race spirals toward the devastation of Virginia and Charles's intentions. One year later, the second scene brings Charlotte and Charles into the artist's studio, and their confrontation raises both the stakes and the questions of what--and who--is actually on display.