Commentary: Necromance – American Literary History – article

Commentary: Necromance

Irvin J. Hunt | American Literary History


This article reconsiders the recent turn in political theory to love as a countercapital affect, helping us endure when hope has lost its salience. The article offers the concept of “necromance” to attend to the ways the popular configuration of love as life-giving often overlooks how in the history of slavery and liberal empire love operates as life-taking. Distinct from necromancy, necromance is not a process of reviving the dead but of bringing subjects in ever closer proximity to the dead. Grounded in a reading of W. E. B. Du Bois’s romantic novel The Quest of the Silver Fleece (1911), particularly its vision of a cooperative economy and its response to the evolving meaning of love in American culture at the end of the nineteenth century, necromance is both a structure of feeling and a form of writing. As a resource for activism indebted to the creative powers of melancholic attachments, necromance contests the common conception that in order for grievances to become social movements or collective insurgencies they must be framed to create feelings of outrage, not of grief. By working inside existing conditions of irrevocable loss, necromantic love registers the feeling that the revolution is already here.


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