Caryl Phillips, David Dabydeen and Fred D'Aguiar

Caryl Phillips, David Dabydeen and Fred D'Aguiar: Representations of slavery

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 240
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    Caryl Phillips, David Dabydeen and Fred D'Aguiar
    Book Description:

    Slavery is a recurring subject in works by the contemporary British writers Caryl Phillips, David Dabydeen and Fred D’Aguiar, yet their return to this past arises from an urgent need to understand the racial anxieties of twentieth- and twenty-first-century Britain. This book examines the ways in which their literary explorations of slavery may shed light on current issues in Britain today, or what might be thought of as the continuing legacies of the UK’s largely forgotten slave past. In this highly original study, Abigail Ward looks at a range of novels, poetry and non-fictional works by Phillips, Dabydeen and D’Aguiar in order to consider their creative responses to slavery. This is the first study to focus exclusively on contemporary British literary representations of slavery, and thoughtfully engages with such notions as the history, memory and trauma of slavery and the ethics of writing about this past. Written for students, academics and the general reader interested in contemporary British or Caribbean writing, this authoritative work offers a clear, accessible and interesting guide to the ways in which the transatlantic slave trade is represented in recent postcolonial literature.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-467-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Series editor’s foreword
    (pp. ix-ix)

    Contemporary World Writersis an innovative series of authoritative introductions to a range of culturally diverse contemporary writers from outside Britain and the United States or from ‘minority’ backgrounds within Britain or the United States. In addition to providing comprehensive general introductions, books in the series also argue stimulating original theses, often but not always related to contemporary debates in post-colonial studies.

    The series locates individual writers within their specific cultural contexts, while recognising that such contexts are themselves invariably a complex mixture of hybridised influences. It aims to counter tendencies to appropriate the writers discussed into the canon of...

  5. List of abbreviations
    (pp. x-x)
  6. Chronology
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  7. 1 Contexts and intertexts
    (pp. 1-24)

    Slavery is a recurring subject in the works of Caryl Phillips, David Dabydeen and Fred D’Aguiar, yet their return to this past arises from an urgent need to understand the racial anxieties of twentieth- and twenty-first-century Britain. As the narrator of D’Aguiar’s long poemBloodlines4 comes to realise, ‘Slavery may be buried, | but it’s not dead, its offspring, Racism, still breeds.’¹ This book specifically focuses on these writers’ differing representation of Britain’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. I examine the ways in which their return to this past may shed light on current issues in Britain today, particularly...

  8. 2 Caryl Phillips and the absent voices of history
    (pp. 25-81)

    Caryl Phillips’s most recent play,Rough Crossings(2007) juxtaposes late eighteenth-century events occurring in Britain and America in its exploration of the work undertaken by British slavery abolitionists Granville Sharp, Thomas Clarkson and John Clarkson alongside the black troops fighting on the British side in the American War of Independence. Based on Simon Schama’s historical epic of the same name, we learn of the black soldiers’ subsequent habitation in Nova Scotia and resettlement in Sierra Leone, and the extreme hardships faced by the settlers in each location. Phillips also makes clear that Britain’s reluctance to accommodate these men and their...

  9. 3 David Dabydeen and the ethics of narration
    (pp. 82-130)

    If V. S. Naipaul’s work provided an interesting point of comparison for Caryl Phillips’s non-fiction, then the importance of Naipaul – as an Indian-Caribbean writer – is even greater to Dabydeen. Dabydeen has described the protagonist of his novelDisappearance(1993) as embodying ‘a Naipaulian rationality, detachment and ironic manner’.¹ Indeed, this novel bears an uncanny resemblance to Naipaul’sThe Enigma of Arrival(1987), in both tone and subject matter, of a man arriving from overseas (Guyana, inDisappearance, and Trinidad in Naipaul’s novel) to a Britain haunted by its imperial past. However, Naipaul’s often negative views of the Caribbean and its...

  10. 4 Fred D’Aguiar and the memorialisation of slavery
    (pp. 131-179)

    Like David Dabydeen’s poem ‘Turner’, examined in the last chapter, Fred D’Aguiar’s novelFeeding the Ghosts(1997) is based upon the story of the slave shipZong, from which, in 1781, one hundred and thirty-two slaves were jettisoned. However, in D’Aguiar’s novel the slave ship continues to haunt the present and, as the transhistorical narrator comes to realise, while the Zong still rides upon the waves, and its spectral jettisons recur, it is uncertain where blame lies, or whether it should be attributed at all:

    Men, women and children are thrown overboard by the captain and his crew. One of...

  11. 5 Critical overview and conclusion
    (pp. 180-190)

    The first part of this chapter offers an overview of some of the most significant trends in the critical approaches to the work of Caryl Phillips, David Dabydeen and Fred D’Aguiar. No author has as yet written a book-length study on all three writers, but Lars Eckstein’sRe-Membering the Black Atlantic(2006) examines Phillips’sCambridgeand Dabydeen’sA Harlot’s Progressalongside African American author Toni Morrison’s novelBeloved. Eckstein’s work seeks to demonstrate how each text performs a distinct form of remembrance, ‘both in the sense of their poetic association with older manifestations of memory in text, image or sound,...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 191-218)
  13. Select bibliography
    (pp. 219-226)
  14. Index
    (pp. 227-242)