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  • Nick White

On Vertigo (Not the Hitchcock One): A Note on Difficulty and the Illicit Pleasures of Incomprehensio

1: Unbecoming Becoming Kim Novak

During Zakiyyah Iman Jackson’s talk last week at the Sheldon, I began to feel dizzy.

Low blood sugar? No. (I’d checked beforehand and was holding steady at 112.)

Tired. Yes, but what graduate student so close to November isn’t a little world-weary? That hasn’t stopped this old bobcat of academia before.

Panic attack? Maybe. Read on.

2: The Virtue of Difficulty

When faced with difficult texts, I tell my students to power through.

I thought I knew what I was talking about.

But pride cometh, dear ones, before the fall.

“A difficulty,” Salvatori and Donahue tell us, “may be an obstacle, but it is not an unmovable impediment.”

Let’s say, however, just for speculation: a grad student attends a lecture by a prominent scholar. He has been tasked with the responsibility of writing a “review” of said speaker’s presentation for an important blog that’s read by important people who think important things. He has his notebook; his pen. He arrives early and sits close to the stage. His blood is humming with caffeine and anxiety. He’s ready.

Once introduced, the speaker takes the stage. She speaks. The grad student begins to take the first note – when, it happens.

The dizziness.

He looks around. Other grad students are furiously scribbling away in their notepads. They are nodding, they are absorbing. And yet when he tries: nothing.

No, not nothing.

He’s dizzy. Vertigo.

He pictures the opening credits of Hitchcock’s movie: the outline Jimmy Stewart. Falling and falling.

3: Notes on a Lecture – A Found Poem?

The blackness of Space Between

critical animal theory

human relations

critical humans

The human is a cultural production


Directed reading – animal man

Begins with Hegel and how he was


3 layers – Divine, Human, Nature

Hegel and the Idea of Africa

Familiarize us with Hegel’s philosophical premises on black people to better under

stand our anti-black present

Brown Girl in the Ring

Ti-Jeanne has

DuBois & the double consciousness:

two souls, two thoughts

Today and always?

Latent genius signals that if not for systemic racism men…

Oppositionality – working in and against


in how Dubois inherits

Hegel: Hopkins

Hopkins: gendered terms


A realm


Vertigo: feeling of being dizzy

but as a black voice a way of ordering reality, of becoming unbecoming? A queer voice?

My voice? My voice.

Vertigo: bifurcating potentionality

A deadly synthesis

4: Shaming

Dear watershed, I want to apologize for this

Dear watershed, when did we learn to keep silent instead of ask (basic) questions, like huh?

Dear watershed, is it now embarrassing to admit when one is outside of her/his depth?

Dear watershed, did my brain break open?

Dear watershed, are people gawking at me?


5: Toward a Synthesis

At the Sheldon this past Friday, Professor Zakiyyah Iman Jackson spoke on the nature of vertigo in Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring, tracing her critical approach back to Dubois’s intervention of Hegel’s racist philosophical theories on “the African.” In the process, she challenges our notions of human, reality, queerness, and blackness.

Midway through her talk, I stopped taking notes. The dizziness came on in waves. The world/my brain/my heart cracked open and bled. I did not understand much, but took pleasure at being in the presence of a great mind at work.

--Nick White

image credit: Wikicommons

#nickwhite #humanitiesontheedge #reviews #zakiyyahimanjackson

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