Thursday, May 11, 2006

Literature and Culture in the Black Atlantic: From Pre- to Postcolonial

A book to watch for this September is Kofi Omoniyi Sylvanus Campbell's medievalization of the Black Atlantic in Literature and Culture in the Black Atlantic: From Pre- to Postcolonial. You can follow the hyperlinked title above, or read about it a bit below. My blurb is far from empty praise: this is my favorite new project in medieval studies.

This book extends our understanding of the Black Atlantic, a term coined by Paul Gilroy to describe the political, cultural and creative interrelations among blacks living in Africa, the Americas, and Europe. Gilroy famously locates the beginning of Black Atlantic history in the Middle Passage, the mass transportation of slaves from Africa to the Caribbean. Campbell argues that that history in fact predates the Middle Passage and focuses on pre-colonial (i.e. Medieval and early Renaissance) English literary constructions of blacks, Africa and the Caribbean, and the effects of those constructions on post-Independence Caribbean literature. In this way, the book situates the Middle Passage within larger historical and cultural processes, rather than as the centre and origin of Black Atlantic history.

Author Bio
Kofi Omoniyi Sylvanus Campbell is Assistant Professor of English at Wilfrid Laurier University, Brantford Campus. He has published articles on both medieval and postcolonial literatures. His current research focuses on the portrayal of same-sex love and lovers in the literature of the Caribbean diaspora, and on the construction of nationalism in England during the Middle Ages.

Praise for Literature and Culture in the Black Atlantic
“There is much to admire in Literature and Culture in the Black Atlantic: its erudition, its originality, its verve. What sets Campbell's book apart is its sophisticated deployment of Caribbean-derived models of hybridity and time, and its twinned emphasis on Africa in the medieval imagination and the contemporary Black Atlantic. Campbell's scholarship is an important and ambitious contribution; absolutely essential reading for medievalists and postcolonial theorists alike.”--Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Professor of English, George Washington University, author of The Postcolonial Middle Ages and Hybridity, Identity and Monstrosity in Medieval Britain

“In Kofi Campbell’s Literature and Culture in the Black Atlantic we have a new medievalism at work in the most intelligent and original version. Here, the cultural discourse of the Middle Ages, with all its claims and anxieties, is finally confronted with the project of the Black Atlantic. This book shows how a new kind of comparative literary studies, one cutting across geographies, periods, and disciplines, can enrich scholarship. The range of writers covered here is impressive and the discussion of cross cultural encounters and the texts that enable them is rich.”—Simon Gikandi, Professor of English, Princeton University, author of Writing in Limbo: Modernism and Caribbean Literature and Maps of Englishness: Writing Identity in the Culture of Colonialism

“This is a fascinating and ambitious study, which seeks to provide a cultural genealogy for Paul Gilroy’s conception of the Black Atlantic. By reading modern Caribbean literature in the context of pre-modern constructions of African identity, Campbell offers a daring new perspective on modern constructions of nation, ethnicity, and race.”--Suzanne Akbari, Associate Professor of English, Medieval Studies, and Comparative Literature, University of Toronto, author of Seeing Through the Veil: Optical Theory and Medieval Allegory

“Kofi Campbell gives compelling reasons why a critical re-reading of Gilroy’s take on the Black Atlantic is both timely and necessary. His superb historical imagination enables him to see the Black Atlantic independently of, and prior to, the white gaze, while his sociological insights lead to a nuanced view of both history and culture as hybridized.”-- Anton Allahar, Professor of Sociology, University of Western Ontario, author of Sociology and the Periphery: Theories and Issues

“Kofi Campbell’s scholarly and rigorous study argues very convincingly about the need to move beyond the Middle Passage in order to locate and historicize the complexity of the black diaspora. An impressive and timely work that brings together a broad range of material to shed new light on the pre-colonial past and the postcolonial present. A very significant and original contribution to both African and postcolonial studies.”--Chelva Kanaganayakam, Professor of English and Postcolonial Studies, and Director of the Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Toronto, author of Counterrealism and Indo-Anglian Fiction and Configurations of Exile: South Asian Writers and Their World

Table of contents
Introduction * Intro * The Postcolonial Middle Ages? * This project * Part I * Beginnings 1: Africa in the European Imaginary * Beginnings 2: Africa in the Middle English Vernacular * De Proprietatibus Rerum and the African Primitive * It was Ours to Begin With: Colonialist Desire in The Three Kings of Cologne * What Does it Mean to be Black?: Skin Colour in the Secretum Secretorum * Part II * ‘Ethiops like the develes of helle’: Monster Theory, Giants, and the Sowdone of Babylone * Mandeville’s Africa * Part III * Textual Relationships * On the Crest of Two Worlds: The Renaissance Pre-colonial * Old Traditions in a New World: The Extended Dream Narrative of Wilson Harris’ Guyana Quartet * Part IV * Mimicry and Identity on the Black Atlantic: Derek Walcott’s Dream on Monkey Mountain * Closing the Rhetorical Circle: “Heat” and “Coldness” in Paul Keens-Douglas’ “Ent Dat Nice?” * Closing the Black Atlantic Circle: David Dabydeen and the Politics of Nationalism * Conclusion * Works Cited

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