Final Paper Ideas: Postcolonial Gothic in the African Novel

Searching through journals for articles that “sound fun” quickly led me to postcolonial gothic readings of African literature. I ended up creating a short list of ways the gothic can be read into postcolonial or African literature based on the investigation I’ve done so far. Applying said list to a mental collection of primary text candidates gave me two top angles to consider, but I haven’t settled on a primary text.

Most of the articles I found express the idea that, broadly speaking, postcolonial literature is fertile ground for gothic readings due to the presence of not only extreme physical and emotional violence, but ghosts/the past, abjection, silencing, isolation, alienation, and the reclamation of lost identity or history as well. The presence of the past, in the cases of both nostalgia and hauntings, is always interesting, so both of my favorites involve this theme. My favorite article, “The Postcolonial Gothic: Time and Death in Southern African Literature” by Gerald Gaylard, connected the gothic and postcolonialism through a shared preoccupation with time. According to Gaylard, the gothic tendency to dwell on death can be seen as the persistent presence of the past in the present. Likewise, postcolonialism can involve the past and anxiety concerning the future lingering over current events. Gaylard makes another bond concerning the genres’ love of death by pointing out how investigating the fall and remains of empires in postcolonialism is comparable to the chronicles of death, ghosts, and related apparitions in gothic fiction. I often think of the past in terms of ghosts and hauntings, so considering the relationship to the past as necrophilia or Poe-style perversity is attractive. In a paper based on these ideas, I would want to link working with the past to perversity, madness, gore, acts of violence, or the supernatural/monsters. To do so, I’m willing to work solely within African novels, but I would also be interested in continuing the trend of comparing African novels to European and American gothic classics I’ve seen in articles on postcolonial gothic fiction.

Gaylard’s article specifically concerns South African literature and makes connections between it and American Southern gothic tropes. One of my favorite grounds for linking the genres was the presence of anxiety concerning the fall of an empire and miscegenation. Likening the endangered status, fall, and remains of the plantation South to the Empire, at least in terms of fear and anxiety, is something I’d like to research. That being said, I tend to focus on the black experience in Southern Gothic (particularly the periods surrounding the Civil War and Jim Crow), so Gaylard’s work inspired me to consider similarities and differences between ways of engaging the past in African and Southern literature.

Blending my two ideas, my conference paper would try viewing relationships with history and time in African novels through the lenses of madness/perversity and monsters by making comparisons between African text(s) and Plantation or Jim Crow themed Southern Gothic.

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2 Responses to Final Paper Ideas: Postcolonial Gothic in the African Novel

  1. Anne Gulick says:

    Sozaboy will be of interest to you, I think, as will the Mbembe essay “Necropolitics” that we’re looking at the same week as Sozaboy. You may want to check out Helen Oyeyemi’s work as well. Did I ever give you Mr. Fox????


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