“Art Hurts”: Intimacy, Difficulty, and Distance in Gwendolyn Brooks’s “Two Dedications”
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In this thesis, I examine Gwendolyn Brooks’s diptych poems “Two Dedications” from her 1968 collection In the Mecca. Critical accounts of “Two Dedications” cast the poems as fixed oppositions between “frivolous” Western art and inspiring, communal black art. I propose that such binaries are reductive and overlook the intellectual benefits Brooks locates in abstract modernist art. Using Ezra Pound’s theories of modernist difficulty, Walter Benjamin’s concept of artistic “aura,” and the Black Arts Movement (BAM) manifestoes of Ron Karenga and Larry Neal, I argue that Brooks’s poems demonstrate the benefits of both abstract Western art and representational BAM art. Specifically, Brooks suggests that both types of art provide avenues for self-determination and liberation from institutional conventions.