Political Disappointment: A Cultural History from Reconstruction to the AIDS Crisis

Oct 24, 2023, 6:00 pm7:30 pm


Event Description
A crowd of people. Text: Political Disappointment A Cultural History From Reconstruction to the AIDS Crisis Sara Marcus

In her new cultural history of the United States, Sara Marcus shows how artists, intellectuals, and activists turned political disappointment—the unfulfilled desire for change—into a basis for solidarity. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, one of the most forceful and clear progressive voices in the United States today, joins the author for a conversation.

Marcus argues that the defining texts in 20th-century American cultural history are records of political disappointment. Through often surprising readings of literature and sound, Marcus offers a new cultural history of the last century, in which creative minds observed the passing of moments of possibility, took stock of the losses sustained, and fostered intellectual revolutions and unexpected solidarities.

In close readings of writings, song, and poetry from figures such as Du Bois to Lead Belly or Audre Lorde, among many others, Marcus shows how defeat time and again gave rise to novel modes of protest and new forms of collective practice, keeping alive the dream of a better world. Disappointment has proved to be a durable, perhaps even inevitable, feature of the democratic project, yet so too has the resistance it precipitates.

Sara Marcus is assistant professor of English at the University of Notre Dame and the author of Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution, a finalist for the National Award for Arts Writing. She received her Ph.D. in English from Princeton in 2018.

Keeanga Yamahtta Taylor’s Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. She is the author, in addition, of From #Blacklivesmatter to Black Liberation. Taylor is contributing writer at The New Yorker and the Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University.

  • Labyrinth Books
  • Department of English
  • Humanities Council