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Re-Membering the Black Atlantic

On the Poetics and Politics of Literary Memory


Lars Eckstein

The Atlantic slave trade continues to haunt the cultural memories of Africa, Europe and the Americas. There is a prevailing desire to forget: While victims of the African diaspora tried to flee the sites of trauma, enlightened Westerners preferred to be oblivious to the discomforting complicity between their enlightenment and chattel slavery. Recently, however, fiction writers have ventured to ‘re-member’ the Black Atlantic.
This book is concerned with how literature performs as memory. It sets out to chart systematically the ways in which literature and memory intersect, and offers readings of three seminal Black Atlantic novels. Each reading illustrates a particular poetic strategy of accessing the past and presents a distinct political outlook on memory. Novelists may choose to write back to texts, images or music: Caryl Phillips’s Cambridge brings together numerous fragments of slave narratives, travelogues and histories to shape a brilliant montage of long-forgotten texts. David Dabydeen’s A Harlot’s Progress approaches slavery through the gateway of paintings by William Hogarth, Sir Joshua Reynolds and J.M.W. Turner. Toni Morrison’s Beloved, finally, is steeped in black music, from spirituals and blues to the art of John Coltrane. Beyond differences in poetic strategy, moreover, the novels paradigmatically reveal distinct ideologies: their politics of memory variously promote an encompassing transcultural sense of responsibility, an aestheticist ‘creative amnesia’, and the need to preserve a collective ‘black’ identity.

Andy Alfonso

millennium—if by “transition,” we imply an obsession with transformation, with the accumulation of the rhetorical signifier “post,” and with the superposition of political realities onto the nation’s ideological palimpsest. This opening chapter encompasses an era of “post-Sovietism” and “post-Special Period

Bénédicte Ledent

relationships but also nature. In addition to these major themes, the book deals transversally with recurring motifs present in the corpus, such as the question of naming, the pervasiveness of intertextuality, or the perpetuation in the present of palimpsestic models of oppression dating back to slavery (see

History on Mona Island

Long-term Human and Landscape Dynamics of an ‘Uninhabited’ Island

Alice V.M. Samson and Jago Cooper

sixty years later, recounted that “the ceilings and walls are scored by Indian finger designs made simply by running fingers over the dust-coated wall” (Kaye 1959). And indeed the surfaces of this cave are a complex palimpsest of mark-making episodes. A deposit of bird bones (Audobon’s Shearwater), he

Richard Price and Sally Price

how the 1956 edition—the one that has become standard—is very much a palimpsest and how Césaire significantly overwrote the 1939 original three times. It’s a lovely edition. Considerably thicker and exclusively French, Du fond d’un pays de silence , Édition critique de Ferrements d’Aimé Césaire