Resonant genres and intertexts in the neo-slave narratives of Caryl Phillips, Octavia Butler, and Lawrence Hill / by Nadine Flagel.
Since the late 1960s, a number of postslavery writers in English have contributed to a growing body of literature that, in re-imagining slavery, does crucial cultural work in challenging preconceptions about race relations. The novels' structure and verisimilitude depend in large part (but not exclusively) on the earliest examples of Black autobiography in Europe and America: the slave narratives written, transcribed, collected and published (often in the service of anti-slavery and anti-racist movements) in the late 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. These neo-slave narratives thus appropriate, translate, and critique a constellation of slave narrative attributes. To date, critical studies of these neo-slave narratives have been confined within traditional nationalist (often American) perspectives. The current study redresses the relative lack of attention granted to British/West Indian and Canadian authors, and places them in the context of studies of American neo-slave narratives. More importantly, existing scholarship extensively describes the enduring generic lineage of the abolitionist slave narrative, but omits the influence of other genres and discourses. The thesis therefore applies the varied intertextual, discursive and generic strategies of the concept of métissage (combination), as articulated in the theories of Françoise Lionnet, M. M. Bakhtin, Gérard Genette, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., to attend to varied influential genres and discourses in four polyphonic neo-slave narratives. The thesis examines previously neglected correspondences between slave narratives and travel writing in Caryl Phillips' Cambridge and those between juxtaposed holocaust writing, prison writing, and slave narratives in Phillips' Higher Ground. Next, the thesis assesses the critique that Octavia Butler's dialogic Kindred presents to slave narratives and speculative fiction. Finally, it contextualizes the embedded slave narrative of Lawrence Hill's Any Known Blood within popular family memoirs. The four novels all are shown to negotiate a location within and independence from both dominant and marginal literary traditions, their inner tensions providing lessons in reading a larger, living moment of genre renewal.
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