How creativity makes its way through feeling—and what we can know and feel through the artistic work of Black women
Feeling is not feelin. As the poet, artist, and scholar Bettina Judd argues, feelin, in African American Vernacular English, is how Black women artists approach and produce knowledge as sensation: internal and complex, entangled with pleasure, pain, anger, and joy, and manifesting artistic production itself as the meaning of the work. Through interviews, close readings, and archival research, Judd draws on the fields of affect studies and Black studies to analyze the creative processes and contributions of Black women—from poet Lucille Clifton and musician Avery*Sunshine to visual artists Betye Saar, Joyce J. Scott, and Deana Lawson.
Feelin: Creative Practice, Pleasure, and Black Feminist Thought makes a bold and vital intervention in critical theory’s trend toward disembodying feeling as knowledge. Instead, Judd revitalizes current debates in Black studies about the concept of the human and about Black life by considering how discourses on emotion as they are explored by Black women artists offer alternatives to the concept of the human. Judd expands the notions of Black women’s pleasure politics in Black feminist studies that include the erotic, the sexual, the painful, the joyful, the shameful, and the sensations and emotions that yet have no name. In its richly multidisciplinary approach, Feelin calls for the development of research methods that acknowledge creative and emotionally rigorous work as productive by incorporating visual art, narrative, and poetry.
About the Author
BETTINA JUDD is an interdisciplinary artist, performer, and writer whose creative research centers Black feminist thought. She is the author of patient., winner of the Hudson Prize from Black Lawrence Press, and an associate professor in the Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Washington.
“Bettina Judd’s attention is to black feminist thought, creative process, the feel of things, our needs, and all of the ways that bodies know. In Feelin Judd takes us deeply into grief, joy!, anger, and ecstasy as the matter of Black study. This is an embodied black feminist poetics, an imaginative labor of knowledge, pleasure, vulnerability, and care.” —Christina Sharpe, author of In the Wake: On Blackness and Being
“Bettina Judd works with every mode of writing and artistry at her disposal, offering an alternative, Black feminist genealogy of affect theory that centers Lorde’s emphasis on embodied knowledge and reads Black women’s art practices for counternarratives to death-dealing Enlightenment intellectual traditions. Feelin lovingly amplifies what Black women’s ecstatic vocal traditions, (a)theological re-visionings of the Bible, and over-seen yet under-heard articulations of rage have to teach us about the life-saving uses of the erotic and the epistemological power of grief, anger, and joy.” —Evie Shockley, author of Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry
“Bettina Judd brings to academic theory and criticism what Stephen Henderson suggests Black poets bring to poetry in their ‘attempt to speak directly to black people about themselves.’ I am certain that Judd’s Feelin: Creative Practice, Pleasure, and Black Feminist Thought is a book with which scholars and poets and all other kinds of writers and artists will have to contend long after Judd herself has written her last word. What I love most about this book is how Professor Judd proves her theories with her own art, be it poetry or video production or song.” —Jericho Brown, author of The Tradition
“Feelin touches Black women’s arts from the inside parts and excavates its ways and means. Its exquisite craft and searing intelligence documents Black womanist aesthetics. Perhaps the critical text in contemporary womanist studies, Feelin is archive and practice, gallery and form . . . a documentary of how we do arts, endure and expose sciences, and still compose and create from the graceful space of extraordinarily generous and gifted spirits. This is a sacred gallery. Be still and take your time with Judd’s incandescent Feelin.” —Karla FC Holloway, author of Passed On: African American Mourning Stories and Gone Missing in Harlem: A Novel (TriQuarterly)
“In this compelling and evocative work, Bettina Judd examines the intersections of Black women’s artistic creation and knowledge production. Themes of embodiment, sensuality, wisdom, emotions, poetics, care and criticality fluidly run throughout.”—Karla Strand, Ms. Magazine