Graphic Formalism / Shadowgraphs / Cara L. Lewis


Figure 1. Teju Cole, “Tivoli,” from Blind Spot (2017). Courtesy of the artist.

Teju Cole’s book Blind Spot (2017) opens with a meditation on spring, “the most melancholy season”: “It is not only the leaves that grow. Shadows grow also. Everything grows, both what receives the light, and what is cast by it. There is more in the world, all of it proliferating like neural patterns.”1 On the page facing these lines, Cole positions a photograph of a spring day in the town of Tivoli, New York (see Figure 1): a tall hedge is just beginning to leaf out, and the new, tender green both does and does not screen the RV parked behind it. In the foreground are stark, even ominous shadows. Presumably cast by a tree slightly behind the photographer, these shadows branch out diagonally from the lower right corner of the photograph toward the hedge. Dark and bare, the shadows seem to menace the new growth of the hedge—that is, until they are absorbed by it. Look once, and the thicker trunk and limbs of tree-shadow seek to intimidate the fragile hedge. “Resurrection is far too close to death,” as Cole writes.2 Look again, and the shadow extending through the gray (fore)ground is revealed as a root system, extending upward to nourish the hedge. The threat is subsumed. Out of darkness, new life.

There is more in the photograph. For despite its interest in organic growth—despite the reassertion of the natural against the built environment of the background house, doubled uncannily by the gas-guzzling RV—the photograph is a study of lines. In addition to the clearly defined tree-shadows that for Cole resemble neural pathways, the long diagonal of a literal pathway—a driveway or road—cuts across the photograph from the lower left corner toward the middle of the right edge. With its green verge of patchy grass, this line delimits the foreground. Above, we find its mirror image, as the line formed by the top of the hedge descends from the upper left corner toward the right edge. (More specifically still, the very top edge of the grassy verge is strictly mirrored by a visible line of brownish gray below the hedge’s topmost verdant growth.) There are more lineated correspondences, too. The upper left third of the photo reveals a bare tree trunk and more branching limbs: substance to match the shadow in the bottom right third.3 This tree’s general verticality is then echoed by the upspringing hedge and especially by the redbrick chimney in the background. Lateral stripes also stretch along the RV’s sides: two thin stripes at the roof edge and a thicker one across the middle that, near the center of the photo, merges into the top rail of the fence that carries this line all the way to the left edge. (Horizontal lines are such a prominent formal device in Blind Spot, in fact, that one can sometimes follow a trail across a series of several photos. The fence/stripe line of “Tivoli” becomes a long table on which a recumbent figure sleeps in the next photo, “Lagos,” and the table becomes a power line in “Btouratij.” The picture rail displaying photos in “Lucerne” gives way to two blue ribbons in “Mantua” and then to the thin strip of sky visible above a curtain in “Zürich.” In such sequences, the device seems like an overt visual representation of what Cole describes in the postscript as “the singing line” that establishes “the continuity of places” and connects all the disparate locations in the book.4)

Working in concert, the many lines of “Tivoli” proliferate shapes. The fence/stripe line bisects the shot more or less horizontally into two stacked rectangles. More rectangles emerge according to the rule of thirds, with the upper tree and the chimney demarcating two implied vertical lines that descend to intersect with one horizontal at the top of the RV’s windshield and another below its tires. Something approximating a not-equal sign ≠, reversed and skewed, is created as the top and bottom hedge-lines cross the implied diagonal that extends from tree-substance at upper left to tree-shadow at lower right. But all these shapes remain subordinate to the three triangles of Cole’s overall composition (see Figure 2). Not the rule of thirds, then, but the dominion of trilaterals, which appear to organize the upstart hedge and the threatening, or sustaining, shadow branches, with all of their unruly affect and atmosphere.

Figure 2. Triangular composition of Teju Cole’s “Tivoli,” from Blind Spot (2017).

What I have been teasing out so far in this essay is a contrast similar to the one that Eugenie Brinkema strikes in the first chapter of her recent book Life-Destroying Diagrams (2022): form against atmosphere, diagram against affect, shape against the suggestion of feeling. Graph over and against shadow, in short. For Brinkema, taking the field of horror film studies to task, “shadow” has been “overemphasized”: too great a focus on “feeling,” “affect,” and “the vividly graphic,” she writes, has ensured that horror studies has “ignored” the genre’s “capacity for a low formalism.”5 To explore this capacity, Brinkema walks a line between apparently contradictory meanings: the graphic is at once form’s antithesis, as in the case of graphic content, and also simultaneously the epitome of form, as in “the diagram, the ordinal; the cell or grid or table; graphs, maps, or sequences; formal rules; typography; the shapes of things; shapes themselves.”6 My terrain in this essay is different, but by thinking through and with Teju Cole’s photography, I aim to recuperate shadow for graphic formalism, or at least for the possibilities of a graphic formalism in a medium so often glossed etymologically as light-writing.7 What about the inverse, I propose—what about the inscription of shadows like those spidery lines in the foreground of “Tivoli”? My provocation is that Cole’s photographs, along with his photography criticism, do less to elevate graph over and against shadow than they do to demonstrate their fundamental compatibility: the shadowgraph as a particular kind of photographic formalism.8 What might we gain by allowing shadow to nourish graph, to constitute form, to compose a system as the shadowy foreground roots in “Tivoli” do?

Lines, shapes, and formal rules all matter in what follows, but on the whole, my emphasis is not on the drawn—the graphically available—but rather on the withdrawn, the reticent, the private. And to take this turn inward, I want to return us briefly to “Tivoli” and its greening privacy hedge. With its delicate tracework and the chain-link fence behind it, the hedge is, first, an object to look at, for “the leaves that grow,” in Cole’s words, are nearly decorative, picked out like fine embroidery stitches against a white backdrop. And yet the hedge is also a screen to look through, at the central object in the photo: the huge, blocky RV. Conspicuous as the RV is, however, the hedge-screen impedes our visual access to it, and moreover, this springtime growth implies a later moment when, leafed out in the full splendor of summer, the hedge will entirely obscure the RV.9

Thus the hedge-screen might seem to raise questions about voyeurism or visual trespass, but within the context of Blind Spot and Cole’s larger body of work, the questions attending “Tivoli” tend more toward the expectations—temporal, epistemological, and otherwise—that attach to certain vantage points. Cole frequently raises these questions by shooting from behind and atop built structures that appear in the foreground (fences, platforms, balconies, doorways, etc.), as in the photo taken on the shores of Lac Léman in Rivaz, Switzerland that appears on the book’s cover and also features his characteristic triumvirate of line, screen, and shadow (see Figure 3). Cole’s photographs consistently ask viewers to consider the places and positions from which we look. What is my standpoint, and how does that inform or deform my knowing? (Put differently: what shadows do I cast?)

Figure 3. Teju Cole, “Rivaz,” from Blind Spot (2017). Courtesy of the artist.

The many screening devices of Blind Spot stage the questions slightly differently as they unfurl across an array of materials: more fences, hedges, and trees; tarps, netting, and shiny drapery; obdurate walls; thin plastic sheeting; clotheslines hung with laundry; a translucent plastic trashbag; curtains variously sheer or striped; a dotted, gridded glass wall; fine metal mesh; assorted types of construction wrap. Windows and glass vitrines abound. All of these screens and scrims instantiate a quietness in Blind Spot that is sometimes commensurate with mystery or intrigue, but more often, the largely depopulated locales in Cole’s photographs are seen to withdraw into their own self-sufficiency. The viewer’s knowledge is limited, blocked, partial, incomplete. These are reticent works: quiet despite Cole’s commitment to color, reserved despite the “voiceover” text that Cole pairs with each photo.10

In Cole’s more recent photobook Golden Apple of the Sun (2021), this quietness also reigns, instantiated by the still-life genre and deepened by Cole’s devotion to negative space, blackness, and abstraction. The book interleaves facsimile pages from an eighteenth-century cookbook with the still-life photos that Cole took of his kitchen counter every day for five weeks leading up to the 2020 U. S. Presidential election. On the one hand, like so many still-life pictures, these testify to domesticity and routine—the sustaining practice, even the reverent ritual, of the daily nourishment of the body. In this time of stress and crisis with little reprieve, the “diaristic” practice of documenting the everyday constitutes a bulwark against “mental breakdown”: “I know I need something to hold myself with,” writes Cole in the extended essay that closes the book.11 On the other hand, these photographs proceed from chancy serendipity: Cole established “the strict rule of not touching anything for the purpose of photography, not changing the placement of anything to make a ‘better’ picture.”12 The book thus results from an arbitrary adherence to formal, operational prescriptions—a kind of conceptual gimmick, perhaps. And so “‘the game is then to organize the rectangle,’” as Cole writes, quoting the photographer Sergio Larrain.13 What Cole aims for, with his intentionality constrained, is to achieve a “purely optical” organization, so that “latent organizational logics of the picture plane will emerge. It will come to seem as if each element was placed there by a wry mathematician.”14 With their drips, spatters, crumbs, and leavings, the familiarity of oft-handled tools, the utensils that have just recently touched lips, Cole’s often very close-up photographs do evince the intimacy typical of still life.15 And yet, taken as a group, the series is more remarkable for its conviction in the eloquence of shape and shadow.

Whereas Blind Spot traverses horizons and commits to the linear, diagonal angle of vision, Golden Apple of the Sun likes to organize the rectangle with curves, as its cover demonstrates (see Figure 4). This double arc hints at the games of abstraction within, as Cole’s tight cropping brings into view variously sized circular segments of dishes, cookware, and the occasional steamer basket or glass. Take, for instance, the photograph from October 11, 12:30 pm, where swooping Dutch-oven arcs are echoed at a lower volume by blue and white porcelain (see Figure 5). Here the limited color palette intensifies our immersion in the formal relations Cole establishes. In other photos, this roundness is counterbalanced by a series of oblong objects and linear shapes: pot and pan handles, knives, eating utensils, striped towels, the bars of the grate over the gas range, and especially a black plastic slotted spatula, whose three slits are themselves miniature oblongs. (Round and oblong come together, of course, in the entire shape of the round-edged spatula and the kindred form of the blue and white ceramic spoon rest with its palm decoration.)

Figure 4. Cover of Golden Apple of the Sun (2021) by Teju Cole. Book design by Morgan Crowcroft- Brown. Photo courtesy of Teju Cole.
Figure 5. Teju Cole, “OCT 11 12:30,” from Golden Apple of the Sun (2021). Courtesy of the artist.

By virtue of Cole’s commitment to framing, to gaming the organization of the rectangle, these still-life photos do “play with the concepts of disinterest and neutrality.”16[16] Yet Cole’s affinity for close-ups also lends an occasionally epic quality to his sport with abstraction. The photo from October 13, 10:17 am, for example, with its bisected frame and composition in four quadrants, relies upon bold contrasts of color, shape, focus, and especially relative visual weight (see Figure 6). Cole has focused on the edge of the heavy black cast-iron skillet that dominates the space. But the shadow within the skillet’s interior allows that circular segment to recede into a soft black field of color that acquires a certain kinship with the negative space created at the upper right by the lighter black countertop. Similar in color and focus, both shapes sharpen to a point at their lower left corners, and these shapes, which “are only ‘in the picture itself,’” particularly mark Cole’s photograph as a formalist work.17 Once we acknowledge their relation, the counter amasses presence, and suddenly the location of negative space shifts to the no man’s land at the composition’s center: the two abyssal triangles below the pots on the stove. The photograph feints at impersonality, but formalism instantiates its own drama here.

Figure 6. Teju Cole, “OCT 13 10:17,” from Golden Apple of the Sun (2021). Courtesy of the artist.

There is no standpoint in Cole’s work from which disinterest proves possible, as the photographs in Blind Spotremind us, and no place devoid of shadow. Indeed, one of Cole’s greatest strengths in Golden Apple of the Sun is his effort to ensure that we see “the objects and the negative space speaking to each other” as “the black counter becomes ever more active.”18 The photograph from the morning of October 13, as we have seen, opens a mutual dialogue between skillet, counter, grate, and spatula—a conversation in at least four tones of black. Even further, Cole allows object and negative space, figure and ground, to dissolve into each other, as in the photograph from October 13, 17:15 pm (see Figure 7). Here the upper edge of the black spatula is entirely lost in shadow, its contour indistinguishable from the counter. Low light is responsible, of course, and yet Cole also dramatizes shadows’ baseline capacity for creating productive formal confusion. If shadows usually show us silhouetted shapes projected onto a ground that the figures cannot appear without, then that figure-ground merging is exaggerated by this photo, rendered grand and solemn despite the banal domesticity of the objects depicted. Even the shiny silver objects that might seem to opt out of the figure/ground game participate: capturing the reflection of the photographer, the stainless-steel sugar bowl is at once a distinct figure against the black backdrop and the ground upon which a shadowy human figure becomes visible.

Figure 7. Teju Cole, “OCT 13 17:15,” from Golden Apple of the Sun (2021). Courtesy of the artist.

In photos like this one, we can see how much Cole has learned from one of the photographers he writes best about, Roy DeCarava. “The power of this picture is in the loveliness of its dark areas,” Cole writes of DeCarava’s Mississippi Freedom Marcher, Washington, D.C., 1963, in the first essay he published as the photography critic for the New York Times Magazine.19 The same might be said of Cole’s own still lifes in Golden Apple of the Sun. Counter to the book’s luminous title—a line from W. B. Yeats that Cole has singularized so that it refers directly to the beaming sun so important for photography and its light-writing—Cole does not try “to brighten blackness” but goes “against expectation” and “darken[s] it further.”20 Like DeCarava’s, his work is “an exploration of just how much could be seen in the shadowed parts of a photograph,” which show us that “what is dark is neither blank nor empty. It is in fact full of wise light, which, with patient seeing, can open out into glories.”21 Similar phrases recur in “Shadow Cabinet,” a catalog essay about Kerry James Marshall that mentions DeCarava. “Darkness is not empty,” Cole reminds us here, and DeCarava’s Man in Window, New York (1978) “is dense with black information. The man in the photograph is black, the curtains around the window are black, the room in which he sits is black, the light that emanates from the scene is black. One might be inclined to read them as different shades of gray, but this image, like so many by DeCarava, is multivocally black. Out of those black tones, the form rises to the surface in relation, consolation and recognition.”22

Looking at Man in Window, we see Cole’s line, screen, and shadow again, but shadow above all—a “non-negotiable” blackness.23 This is truly a shadowgraph—another name for the silhouette, to be sure, which is what DeCarava’s photograph approaches along the sinuous curve he traces from the crown of the man’s head down his back, and also an exercise in shadow writing, in trading light for darkness and engaging with the formal possibilities of a non-substance that seems the very opposite of form.24 Note the rectangular shape of the window that parallels and doubles the picture plane, the lineation of the blind slats and the window sash, the containment of the figure to the lower half of the frame. Note, too, the three-dimensional modeling of that figure through dark gradations: not form against shadow, but form “out of” black, as Cole writes, form constructed in and through blackness. And although this photograph is informed by the practice of making silhouettes, what is happening here is not shadow projection, exactly. The scene is introspective, and form is less an additional overlay (as it might have seemed at the beginning of my reading of Cole’s “Tivoli”) than an integral part of the photograph’s interiority.

Like Cole’s still-life photography, DeCarava’s work is “private” and “self-contained,” allowing “moments of inwardness [to] open up a different space of encounter.”25 Cole is fond of this phrasing, which appears not just in his writing on DeCarava, but also when he explains his photographic practice in Golden Apple: “As I photograph, I’m looking for the moment when one kind of interest becomes something else, where the words I want are neither ‘interesting’ nor ‘boring.’ […] [I]f we are lucky, some other kind of space has the chance to be created.”26 This language recurs, too, in his account of description, which can be understood simultaneously as a novelist’s tool, as an art historian or critic’s baseline practice, and as the unique affordance of the still-life genre: “I like describing. […] While you’re describing, something else is happening—you’re holding space.”27 For Cole, importantly, these spaces that exist only by virtue of the work—the “spaces that are only ‘in the picture itself’”—are sites as rich with presence and meaning as the black countertop in the photographs from October 13, 2020.28

Thus if Cole’s entire photographic oeuvre shies away from graphic content, and if his essays have multiple times raised the “case for the anti-spectacular in conflict photography,” as Alexandra Kingston-Reese has argued, then it is crucial that we understand Cole’s turn away from graphic content as a turning towards form.29 For in Cole’s work, the opposite of the graphic isn’t the euphemistic, the censored, the vague, or the vanilla, but rather the opaque. Influenced by Édouard Glissant, Cole elevates opacity—shadow degree zero, screening at its maximum—to the status of an ethical virtue and a formal prescription. Defined by Glissant as “a right to not have to be understood on others’ terms, a right to be misunderstood if need be,” opacity is for Cole a fundamental ethical principle.30 As he writes, quoting Glissant directly, “That’s one of the laws of Relation.”31 This is perhaps why Cole remains so devoted to the conceptual utility of the metaphor he elevates to title status with Blind Spot: the term denotes what is always “missing,” even for “the most vigilant eye.”32 By acknowledging one’s own blind spots, one creates space for another’s opacity, for the recognition of their “irreducible singularity.”33 Opacity as a rule of engagement, then, holds space for an encounter not predicated on transparency and illumination. And as a formal principle, opacity provides for “the coincidence of opposites”: for Glissant, literature works as “a producer of opacity” because “it can say the unsayable,” “make the invisible visible,” or “present the absent.”34

In Cole’s photography, the shadow performs precisely these paradoxical functions. Marking the absent presence of a casting figure, each of Cole’s shadows—of trees, kitchenware, or the photographer himself—ask us to read presence back into absence. So too does blackness, which is, as Alessandra Raengo has noted, both a color and, optically, “the absence of color,” neither of which can be “distilled apart from the sociality” that sticks to blackness by virtue of its use to describe people, particularly “the subject that slavery ontologically empties out.”35 Although Cole’s ethics of opacity are perhaps most salient when he photographs and writes about people, they nevertheless animate the games of abstraction and withdrawal he plays with the negative space of the kitchen counter, which become ways of “explicitly mattering blackness.”36 Not photographs written in light, Cole’s shadowgraphs insist that shapes and lines in black should describe the ethical ground and the figures upon it, always forming and framing, organizing the rectangle.

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This is part of the cluster Graphic Formalism. Read the other posts here.

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  1. Teju Cole, Blind Spot (New York: Random House, 2017), 2.
  2. Cole, Blind Spot, 2.
  3. I borrow the paired terms substance and shadow from Cole’s essay “Shadow Cabinet,” about the painter Kerry James Marshall. Reprinted in Cole’s recent book Black Paper, the essay first appeared in the catalog for Marshall’s exhibition History of Painting at the David Zwirner Gallery in London in 2018. Teju Cole, Black Paper: Writing in a Dark Time (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2021), 116-129.
  4. Cole, Blind Spot, 324. For “Tivoli,” “Lagos,” and “Btouratij,” see 2-7. For “Lucerne,” “Mantua,” and “Zurich,” see 66-71. As these names indicate, the book proceeds through text-image pairs in which Cole groups each photo with a prose-poem-like text and titles both with the location where the photo was taken.
  5. Eugenie Brinkema, Life-Destroying Diagrams (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2022), 18-19, 21.
  6. Brinkema, Life-Destroying Diagrams, 24.
  7. Unlike horror, which in Brinkema’s analysis “regards the body as nothing but formal material,” photography must grapple with its relation to the documentary, the record, and the dynamics of witnessing. See Brinkema, Life-Destroying Diagrams, 22 (emphasis original).
  8. My title “Shadowgraphs” riffs on Cole’s introduction of the term as a synonym for silhouette in his essay “Shadow Cabinet.” As I use it in this essay, shadowgraph refers to photographs that are best understood through their deployment of shadows—more shadow-writing than light-writing—and in this way, my usage of the term remains distinct from its more technical definitions, which include radiographs and a particular type of photograph used for “the study of fluid flow.” Cole, Black Paper, 118, and Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. “shadowgraph,” 1.a., 1.b., and 2, accessed November 1, 2022,
  9. I should note that Siri Hustvedt, in her foreword to Blind Spot, also provides a reading of “Tivoli,” in terms different from but not mutually exclusive with my own, and she also refers to the “hedge-screen.” Her reading focuses more on the elliptical references of Cole’s work and the many conceptual paths that they trace, as well as the travel they imply. Curiously, at no point does she refer to the RV. See Siri Hustvedt, foreword to Cole, Blind Spot, xi.
  10. Cole uses the term “voiceover” to distinguish the often elliptical relation that his texts have to his photographs from the more conventionally explicatory work performed by captions. Teju Cole, “Seeing and Writing and Both” (lecture presented at the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, November 15, 2017).
  11. Teju Cole, Golden Apple of the Sun (London: MACK, 2021), 110, 108.
  12. Cole, Golden Apple, 109.
  13. Cole, Golden Apple, 105.
  14. Cole, Golden Apple, 109-110, 120-1.
  15. For more on the intimacy of still life, with particular reference to the work of art historians Norman Bryson and Jeannene M. Przyblyski, see Cara L. Lewis, Dynamic Form: How Intermediality Made Modernism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2020), 65, 77.
  16. Cole, Golden Apple, 109.
  17. Cole, Golden Apple, 123.
  18. Cole, Golden Apple, 123.
  19. Teju Cole, Known and Strange Things: Essays (New York: Random House, 2016), 145. The essay, titled “A True Picture of Black Skin,” was originally published on February 22, 2015.
  20. Cole, Known and Strange Things, 147. Cole’s title, Golden Apple of the Sun, modifies the final line from Yeats’s poem “The Song of Wandering Aengus” (1897): “Though I am old with wandering / Through hollow lands and hilly lands, / I will find out where she has gone, / And kiss her lips and take her hands; / And walk among long dappled grass, / And pluck till time and times are done, / The silver apples of the moon, / The golden apples of the sun.” Yeats evokes a mythical pastoral plenty that is nevertheless saturated by melancholy—a relevant emotional duality for a photobook about cooking during a worldwide pandemic—and Cole’s photos do feature apples as well as more obviously golden tomatoes. By singularizing the quotation, however, Cole attaches the reference more directly to the sun itself, which matters for his diaristic practice begun under the auspices of the movement of the heavens: “Jupiter, Saturn, and the moon track rightward. I take my camera to the kitchen tonight, and begin to follow the movements that every day within it are changing like the skies above, and there begins this counter history.” W. B. Yeats, “The Song of Wandering Aengus,” in Selected Poems and Four Plays of William Butler Yeats, ed. M. L. Rosenthal, 4th ed. (New York: Scribner Paperback Poetry, 1996), 22, and Cole, Golden Apple, 109.
  21. Cole, Known and Strange Things, 145, 147.
  22. Cole, Black Paper, 120, 127-28. Roy DeCarava’s Man in Window, New York, 1978, is a gelatin silver print held by the Art Institute of Chicago under reference number 1989.118.
  23. Cole quotes painter Kerry James Marshall talking about his own canvases: “Blackness is non-negotiable in those pictures.” Cole, Black Paper, 129.
  24. Cole gives the history of the silhouette in the same catalog essay for Kerry James Marshall that mentions DeCarava’s Man in a Window. See Cole, Black Paper, 117-18.
  25. Cole, Known and Strange Things, 149 (emphasis mine).
  26. Cole, Golden Apple, 111 (emphasis mine).
  27. Teju Cole, “Seeing and Writing and Both” (emphasis mine). The classic work on still life is Svetlana Alpers’s The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983). I have also written elsewhere about still life’s relationship to novelistic description: see Lewis, Dynamic Form, 53-92.
  28. Cole, Golden Apple, 123.
  29. Kingston-Reese is writing specifically about Cole’s essay “Object Lesson,” which is reprinted in Known and Strange Things and is explicitly about still-life photography, but Cole has also made versions of this case more recently in two of the essays in Black Paper, “What Does It Mean to Look at This?” and “Restoring the Darkness.” While these essays reveal how much of Cole’s thought has been influenced by Susan Sontag, particularly Regarding the Pain of Others, they also make more nuanced, complex claims about the capacity of photographs to bear witness and to document atrocity. Notable for my purposes is the fact that the latter essay ends with an appeal to opacity: “Photography writes with light, but not everything wants to be displayed. Among the human rights is the right to remain obscure, unseen, and dark.” See Alexandra Kingston-Reese, Contemporary Novelists and the Aesthetics of Twenty-First Century American Life (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2019), 69; Cole, Known and Strange Things, 134-39; and Cole, Black Paper, 101-8, 152-59.
  30. Glissant develops his notion of opacity in relation to the French language and in order to defend “the obscurity and inscrutability of Caribbean blacks and other marginalized peoples.” Cole recognizes these origins and allows Glissant’s opacity to ramify more broadly. See Cole, Known and Strange Things, 148, and Golden Apple, 121.
  31. Cole, Golden Apple, 121. For Cole’s quotation from Glissant, which comes from the film Édouard Glissant: One World in Relation (2010), see Édouard Glissant, Manthia Diawara, and Christopher Winks, “Édouard Glissant in Conversation with Manthia Diawara,” Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, no. 28 (2011): 15.
  32. Cole, Blind Spot, 325. As Madigan Haley writes in an essay that also discusses Glissant, Cole, opacity, and blackness in terms very congenial to my own, “Opacity does not simply reside in others, Cole’s work implies, it is also a blind spot that conditions our vision,” and so “it is at the limit of these modes of vision […] that, paradoxically, our world comes into view.” Madigan Haley, “Writing Nearby Images, Seeing the Black,” Speculative Nonfiction 3 (June 25, 2020),
  33. Édouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation, trans. Betsy Wing (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997), 190.
  34. Glissant, Poetics of Relation, 115, and Michael Wiedorn, Think Like an Archipelago: Paradox in the Work of Édouard Glissant (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2018), 35, 42.
  35. Alessandra Raengo, “Black Matters,” Discourse 38, no. 2 (spring 2016): 247-48, 257.
  36. Raengo, “Black Matters,” 259.