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Space, Place and Genre in Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad (2016)

Space, Place and Genre in Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad (2016)

Baillie, Justine ORCID: 0000-0002-0056-9155 (2019) Space, Place and Genre in Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad (2016). African-American Review. ISSN 1062-4783 (Print), 1945-6182 (Online) (Submitted)

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In African American science fiction writing, the neo-slave narrative brings a new understanding of dystopias in the re-imagining of actual, material and lived dystopias created by the institution of slavery.  In addition to debating the nature of freedom and how it can be achieved, the excavations of social and economic realities found in neo-slave narratives reclaim the lived experience of the past and hold them up to the light of the present, allowing us to recognise continuities and to confront the possibility that we are simply repeating history. In this essay, I read Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad (2016) as dystopian fiction that offers utopian possibilities, if not for the community, then at least for the individual. In his dystopic neo-slave narrative, Whitehead draws on the pattern of the original slave narratives by Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs and transcends the form both by signifying on the literary tropes of the Gothic and in his Steampunk and Afrofuturist evocations of the fantastical juxtaposed with lived experience.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: slave narratives, utopia, dystopia, Afrofuturism, science fiction, signifying
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > Department of Literature, Language & Theatre
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2020 12:59
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: GREAT 4
Selected for REF2021: None

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