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Slavery and the unknown world America's cultural amnesia and the literary response

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Description: The origin of the African American literary tradition is often traced back to slave narratives, the autobiographical accounts written by former slaves detailing their harrowing experiences as victims of the "peculiar institution." The politically and racially charged climate of the 1960's and 1970's sparked a renewed interest in these narratives, resulting in the publication of many novels adopting the convention of the slave narrative. In turn, a new sub-genre termed "neo-slave narratives" developed within the genre of historical novels about slavery. These neo-slave narratives and other historical novels about slavery represent a distinct trend in the African American literary tradition in their ideologically and politically charged response to both the historical moment of slavery and its relationship to the present. However, contemporary African American novelists seem to acknowledge the presence of a discernable shift in the direction of this literary tradition, and the ideas presented within their work questions the stability and viability of upholding a literary tradition based on ideology. I plan to analyze two novels in particular, Edward Jones' The Known World and Charles Johnson's Middle Passage , to explore the ways in which these novels occupy a contentious position within the African American literary tradition. The Known World and Middle Passage not only push the boundaries of the tradition and genre in which they participate, but they also force the reader and critic to reevaluate the institution of slavery in the postmodern moment.
Language: English
Format: Degree Work