A new book by Dr Jennifer Terry explores the symbolic geographies found within modern black fiction. Encompassing Anglo- and Francophone novels emergent from North America, the Caribbean, and Europe and spanning the twentieth century, this wide-ranging work considers how the diaspora has imagined itself and its history in spatial terms.
“Shuttles in the Rocking Loom”: Mapping the Black Diaspora in African American and Caribbean Fiction examines how selected African American, Caribbean and Black British novelists use landscapes, sites, journeys and orientations to engage with questions of communal affiliation, transnational cultural formations and complex identity politics.
“This scope, and my attention to multiple manifestations of ‘geography,’ allows broad and fresh insight into an evolving, transnational and, of course, political diasporic imagination.”
This comparative approach takes in the diverse imagined communities who have been similarly shaped by the history of the slave trade and European colonialism as well as by subsequent contexts. Mapping the Black Diaspora therefore rejects the construction of cultural canons on a national basis and uncovers provocative convergences in narrative geographical visions or “mappings.”
David Bradley, Dionne Brand, Octavia Butler, W. E. B. DuBois, Patrick Chamoiseau, Maryse Condé, Ralph Ellison, Édouard Glissant, Wilson Harris, Pauline E. Hopkins, C. L. R. James, Charles Johnson, Jamaica Kincaid, George Lamming, Nella Larsen, Andrea Levy, Earl Lovelace, Paule Marshall, Claude McKay, Toni Morrison, Caryl Phillips, Ishmael Reed, Jacques Roumain, Simone Schwarz-Bart, Alice Walker, John Edgar Wideman
– Writers covered
Black fiction is found to shape counter geographies as it exposes oppressive spatial orders or revises colonial representations. The operation of cultural memory emerges as key to the evolving idea of a shared black diaspora and “a transnational literary imaginary.” The image of a shuttle, moving back and forth between places, reflects what Jennifer Terry summarises as “a woven, agitated history, made up of propelling forces and multiple, densely entangled strands.”
Her four chapters examine the meanings of the US North and South; Caribbean definitions of both the plantation and anti-plantation locations; engagements with the Atlantic Middle Passage and other oceanic trajectories; and plotting of stratifications, transformative interactions, and the search for belonging in the diasporic city.
“Shuttles in the Rocking Loom”: Mapping the Black Diaspora in African American and Caribbean Fiction is published by Liverpool University Press. It forms part of a series on “Migrations and Identities,” which offers a forum and aims to provide a stimulus for new research into experiences, discourses and representations of migration from across the arts and humanities.