Articles

“Unembedded, Disappeared”: Marlene NourbeSe Philip’s Hyper/In/Visible Literary Celebrity

Author
  • Lorraine York (McMaster University)

Abstract

In her essays, Marlene NourbeSe Philip has been forthcoming about being “an unembedded, disappeared poet and writer in Canada” whose contributions to cultural life have been systematically obstructed, partly because of her public activism on behalf of Black communities. Her visibility is an oxymoronic, bedeviling combination of disappearance and unchosen hypervisibility, with the hypervisibility largely brought about by a radical misunderstanding and abjection of her work as a cultural activist. In this article, I examine how the “embedded, disappeared” and yet present, visible, audible literary and activist career of Marlene NourbeSe Philip challenges prevailing conceptions of authorship in Canada. In particular, I think about how and why Philip’s hypervisible invisibility offers a challenge to the regimes of visibility which tend to define literary celebrity. Any account of celebrity visibility needs to recognise the fact that the implications and consequences of visibility do not sit evenly on all public persons, as the theories of Katherine McKittrick, Jenny Burman, Sarah J. Jackson, and Toni Morrison testify. Neither is celebrity visibility the dualistic, either/or proposition so frequently framed by celebrity studies: either a much-desired good (an adoring audience) or a reviled evil, as in instances of notoriety, or in cases of overly intrusive, unwanted public attention. Instead, we need to reckon seriously with the ways visibility may be both systemically denied and reimposed as oppressive hypervisibility, as I argue it is in the celebrity of Marlene NourbeSe Philip and, by extension, in that of many racialised public figures.

Keywords:

How to Cite:

York, L., (2021) ““Unembedded, Disappeared”: Marlene NourbeSe Philip’s Hyper/In/Visible Literary Celebrity”, Authorship 10(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.21825/aj.v10i1.20636

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Published on
29 Jun 2021
Peer Reviewed