The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination in Youth Literature, Media, and Culture | National Humanities Center

Humanities in Class: Webinar Series

The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination in Youth Literature, Media, and Culture

Race; Social Media; Young Adult Fiction; Popular Culture; African American Literature; Fantasy

Ebony Elizabeth Thomas (Associate Professor, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania)

January 14, 2021

Humans read and listen to stories not only to be informed but also as a way to enter worlds that are not like our own. A sense of the infinite possibilities inherent in fairy tales, fantasy, science fiction, comics, and graphic novels draws children, teens, and adults from all backgrounds to speculative fiction–also known as the fantastic. However, when people of color seek passageways into the fantastic, we often discover that the doors are barred. Even the very act of dreaming of worlds-that-never-were can be challenging when the known world does not provide many liberatory spaces. Yet the success of new narratives from Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic universe, the recent Hugo Awards won by NK Jemisin and Nnedi Okorafor, and the blossoming of Afrofuturistic and Black fantastic tales prove that all people need new mythologies–new “stories about stories.” In addition to amplifying diverse fantasy, liberating the rest of the fantastic from its fear and loathing of darkness and Dark Others is essential. This webinar will move from ideological concepts to concrete action by showcasing the ways that youth and young adults respond to textual erasure and misrepresentation by using social media to create new worlds—effectively “restorying”–and how creatives are in turn starting to think about the implications of race and difference in participatory culture.


Literature / Literary Theory / Race / Social Media / Young Adult Fiction / Popular Culture / African American Literature / Fantasy /