Emocontext #12 Nicholas Manning 06/05/22


“More of Sensation Than Reflection”: Reclaiming Emotional Artifice in African American Fiction

Is emotional truth a damaging literary and cultural ideal? This talk—which will present some of the central arguments of my new book, The Artifice of Affect. American Realism and the Critique of Emotional Truth, forthcoming from Edinburgh University Press—will propose that valuing affective authenticity risks creating a homogenized self, encouraged to comply only with accepted moral beliefs. Similarly, when emotional truth is made the primary value of literature, literary texts too often become agents of conformity. This argument will notably be made through analyses of the problem of emotional truth and artifice in African American literatures, in particular in the work of James Baldwin, Kathleen Collins, and Ralph Ellison. 

Nicholas Manning

Université Grenoble Alpes – Institut universitaire de France


Nicholas Manning is Professor of American literature at Université Grenoble Alpes and a member of the Institut universitaire de France. A graduate of the École Normale Supérieure (Ulm), he is the author of several monographs such as Rhétorique de la sincérité. La poésie moderne en quête d’un langage vrai (Champion 2013) and various articles in journals such as Textual Practice or Transatlantica. Editor in chief for literature, aesthetics and philosophy of the Revue Française d’Études Américaines and founding editor of The Continental Review, his current five-year research grant (2021-2026) at the IUF is entitled “American Literature and Therapeutic Culture: Rethinking Literary Creation Through Psychologies of the Self From the 1850s Until Today”. His new monograph, The Artifice of Affect: American Realist Literature and Emotional Truth, is forthcoming from Edinburgh University Press.