Modernism: How does DuBois’ theory of double consciousness apply to the works we have studied?

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W. E. B. DuBois published Souls of Black Folk in 1903. In his highly acclaimed work, he postulated the theory of double consciousness. How does DuBois’ theory of double consciousness apply to the works we have studied?


Use two works, one African American and one majority work. You may choose from the following:

• The Autobiography of an Ex-colored Man by James Weldon Johnson, • Heritage by Countee Cullen, • “The Man Who Was Almost a Man,” by Richard Wright, • “We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar, • “Barn Burning” by William Faulkner, and • “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner. For DuBois, double consciousness is the African American’s tendency always to view himself through the eyes of the white world. In so doing, he realizes that he can never measure up in the eyes of whites, that they always will see him as part of the group (stereotype) never as an individual. Double consciousness results from the African American’s unsuccessful attempt to reconcile his African self and his American self. You might wish to explain Dubois’ theory of double consciousness in your own words before you give your thesis about how double consciousness is evident in the works you choose. What is the source of the double consciousness for your characters? It is not about race for all of the characters. For Colonel Satoris Snopes (Sardy), for example, is blood vs. morality or loyalty to his family vs. individuality.

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