1st Edition

Spectres from the Past Slavery and the Politics of "History" in West African and African-American Literature

By Portia Owusu Copyright 2020
    148 Pages
    by Routledge

    148 Pages
    by Routledge

    Spectres from the Past: The "History" of Slavery in West African and African-American Narratives examines the merit of the claim that West African writers, in comparison to African-Americans authors, deliberately expunge the history of slavery from literary narratives. The book explores slavery in contemporary West African and African-American literature by looking at the politics of history and memory. It interrogates notions of History and memory by considering the possibility that shared traumas, such as West African and African-American experiences of slavery, can be remembered and historicised differently, according to critical factors such as socio-economic realities, cultural beliefs and familial traditions.

    At the heart of the book are compelling and new readings of slavery in six literary narratives that draws on cultural philosophies, musicology and linguistics to demonstrate diverse and unusual ways that Black writers in West Africa and North America write about slavery in literature.

    Introduction: Evoking Spectres in History.

    Chapter 1: Literary Archaeology: The Uncovering and Recovering of Historical Memory in Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

    Chapter 2: Articulating ‘Silence’: The Language of Death as Memory in Ama Ata Aidoo’s The Dilemma of a Ghost.

    Chapter 3: Bloodlines and Blurred lines: Contested Memories and Freedom in Barbara Chase-Riboud’s Sally Hemings.

    Chapter 4: The Limitations of ‘History’: Chika Ezeanya’s Re-visioning of the Early Years of Olaudah Equiano and Slavery in Before We Set Sail.

    Chapter 5: Wreckages of History: The Past as Ongoing in Amiri Baraka’s Slave Ship: A Historical Pageant.

    Chapter 6: The Magic of ‘History’ and Contradictions of ‘Return’ to the M(other) land in Syl Cheney-Coker’s The Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar.

    Conclusion: Defining Silences.


    Portia Owusu is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Texas A&M University. Her research interests include history and memory, cultural philosophy and literature and West African and African-American contemporary narratives. She received her PhD in 2017 in Africana Literature at the SOAS, University of London.