Identity, Geography and Culpability: The Contours of Black Women’s Fiction of Enslavement 1976-2016

Williams, Poppy (2022) Identity, Geography and Culpability: The Contours of Black Women’s Fiction of Enslavement 1976-2016. Masters thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis takes up the history of slavery in order to argue for the particularity of historical fiction as a tool for redressing the archival fissures obfuscating our understanding of this past. Specifically, I explore the representation of enslaved women in two generations of the Black women’s liberatory narrative tradition, represented in this study by Gayle Jones’ Corregidora (1976); Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987); Octavia Butler’s Kindred (1979); Morrison’s A Mercy (2008); Tiya Miles’ The Cherokee Rose: A Novel of Gardens and Ghosts (2015); and Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing (2016). Published between 1976 and 2016, the emergence of new historiographical developments and socio-political contexts have dramatically influenced this genre. My analysis thus takes an interdisciplinary approach, representing the ways in which these fictions have been influenced by the cultural contexts and shifting contours in the historiography of slavery within which each text was conceived. The work of revisionist historians provides a vital framework for this study, but it is not my focal point. Instead, I demonstrate the idiosyncrasies of historical fiction, exploring how Black female novelists have rectified the myriad gaps in the historical archives. The organisation of this thesis reflects the three significant historiographical developments influencing the arc of this literary tradition: enslaved women’s subjectivity; the mutable geographies of the slave trade; and the ambiguous allocation of responsibility for the enslavement and racial oppression of Black peoples. While the thematic concerns of this literary tradition metamorphose in light of the texts’ moment of production, the two generations of work remain connected by a perpetual urge to elevate enslaved womanhood from historical obscurity. Therefore, I argue that taken collectively, the Black women’s liberatory narrative tradition transforms the representation of this past, imagining an unprecedentedly intimate account of enslaved womanhood.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Kitty Laine
Date Deposited: 02 Jun 2023 15:19
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2023 15:19


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