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Contemporary Essays on the Postcolonial Short Story (edited collection) - Abstract dealine 1 June 2009
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Edited by Paul March-Russell and Maggie Awadalla
The editors of Contemporary Essays on the Postcolonial Short Story invite contributions for an interdisciplinary collection on the postcolonial short story. The collection will try to respond to the following lines of inquiry:
Postcolonial criticism has traditionally presented itself as questioning the composition of literary canons. Yet, little has so far been published on the role of the short story within the making of postcolonial literature, although their relationship is historically well established. For example, the short story has played a vital role in small-press magazines such as Drum, Black Orpheus, Transition and Okike in Africa, Bim and Savacou in the Caribbean and Wasafiri in the U.K. The short story has contributed to the articulation of regional, communal and national cultural identities often in conflict with ruling social and political ideologies. As a non-canonical and, in some instances, covert medium, the short story has, through its formal and thematic preoccupations, raised important questions about the relationships between form and content, art and politics, and the individual and the whole: issues that in turn lie at the heart of the debate around postcolonialism. It is surprising, then, that little critical attention has been devoted to examining the relationship between the short story and the postcolonial, whether in terms of either literary and cultural theory or artistic practice. Nevertheless, key postcolonial writers have either devoted a large part of their careers to the form (Nadine Gordimer, Doris Lessing, R.K. Narayan) or turned to the short story during significant periods in their artistic and political lives (Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Salman Rushdie) where more established forms such as the novel were less expressive. The short story has played an important role either in the form of an apprenticeship (Rohinton Mistry, Samuel Selvon) or as the catalyst for longer works (Vikram Chandra, Hanif Kureishi). The formal properties of the short story have served either as literary experiment (Pauline Melville, Ben Okri, Ahdaf Soueif) or as a commentary upon the experiences of diaspora and cultural transformation (Romesh Gunasekera, V.S. Naipaul, M.G. Vassanji). These qualities have also appealed to women writers (Ama Ata Aidoo, Alice Munro, Olive Senior) when the conventions of the novel have again appeared restrictive. To what extent can the short story and postcolonial studies be creatively engaged? In what ways is the short story furthering the development of postcolonial literature?
The collection is structured in five thematic sections: national identity, diaspora, hybridity and globalisation, ethnicity, gender and sexuality. We focus principally upon the regions most affected by the independence movements of the mid-twentieth century: Africa, the Caribbean, the Indian sub-continent, the South Pacific, and the United Kingdom. Although less attention is paid to the work of the white settler populations in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, due to the significant coverage within both postcolonial and short story criticism, we do not preclude writers from these regions. Although we are concerned with the period since 1945, we include essays that make connections with the period before World War Two, for example, by looking at writers such as Narayan who straddle this historical divide, or by focusing upon the influence of indigenous oral traditions. Individual themes may include (but are not limited to) the effects of apartheid upon short fiction in South Africa, the role of island communities in the Caribbean and the South Pacific, the legacy of partition for writing from India and Pakistan, and the influence of immigration upon the literary culture of the United Kingdom. At the same time, each section complements one another, so that a picture of the current state of world short fiction is formed without being over-determined. The collection seeks to generate further dialogue by emphasising not only the fragmentary experience of the short story but also the postcolonial legacy to which the short story form addresses.
The collection will begin with a general introduction from the editors, which will consider the relationship between the postcolonial and the short story in terms of literary, theoretical and historical contexts. In particular, the introduction will emphasise the short story’s relationship to prose fiction as that of the fragment to the whole, a partial disintegration suggestive for analysing the postcolonial as the traumatic response to both the history and legacy of Empire. The subsequent essays will be grouped according to five sections (each consisting of three to four chapters) that describe a trajectory from political narratives of nation-building to personal narratives situated around the body, gender and story-telling. The five sections are:
1) National Identities
The thematic format of each section will enable comparative study between authors, texts, regions and periods, which will in turn encourage fresh possibilities for re-reading the postcolonial, including its relationship to the short story. Each section, though, will also be useful for undergraduate readers by debating key periods, movements and theories within the development of postcolonial literature as well as opening up opportunities for the study of younger writers.
About the Editors:
Dr Paul March-Russell is Honorary Lecturer and Director of Part-Time Studies in Comparative Literature at the University of Kent. He is the author of The Short Story: An Introduction (Edinburgh University Press, in press, 2009), co-editor with Carmen Casaliggi of Ruskin in Perspective: Contemporary Essays (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007), and commissioning editor for Critical Studies in Science Fiction (Gylphi). Among his other relevant publications are articles on Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling and Douglas Oliver’s A Salvo for Africa.