Afterword: In Praise of a Black British Canon and the Possibilities of Representing the Nation ‘Otherwise’

  • Alison Donnell


In this afterword I want to give thought to what might be at stake in discussing the idea of a black British canon in the cultural and political climate of Britain at the start of the twenty-first century. As noted in the Introduction, this essay does not, therefore, set out a genealogical account of canon formation, but concludes the volume with possible interventions into, and questions derived from, the key critical debates relevant to our understanding of a black British canon today.


National Culture Black Identity British Subject British Context Literary Canon 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    F.R. Leavis, The Great Tradition: George Eliot, Henry James, Joseph Conrad (1948. rpt: Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1962).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    T.S. Eliot, ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’, The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism (London: Methues, 1922).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Aijaz Ahmad, ‘Jameson’s Rhetoric of Otherness and the “National Allegory”’, Social Text, 17 (1987), pp. 3–25; p. 25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Fredric Jameson, ‘Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism’, Social Text, 15 (1986), pp. 65–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    William Walsh, Commonwealth Literature (London: Macmillan, 1980).Google Scholar
  6. John Press (ed.), The Teaching of English Literature Overseas (London: Methuen, 1963).Google Scholar
  7. See also, Gerald Moore’s pioneering work on African writing, Seven African Writers (London: Oxford University Press, 1962)Google Scholar
  8. edited with Ulli Beier, Modern Poetry From Africa (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1963)Google Scholar
  9. and African Literature and the Universities (Ibadan: Ibadan University Press, 1965)Google Scholar
  10. At the University of Kent, Louis James produced one of the first book studies on the Caribbean, The Islands In Between (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968)Google Scholar
  11. 6.
    See Alison Donnell, Twentieth-Century Caribbean Literature (London: Routledge, 2004), for a discussion of how Caribbean literature is discoursed upon, how canons are created, and what ideological and historical pressures shape such discussions.Google Scholar
  12. 7.
    Courttia Newland and Kadija Sesay (eds), IC3: The Penguin Anthology of New Black Writing in Britain (Penguin: London, 2000), pp. xii–xiv; p. xiii.Google Scholar
  13. Patsy Antoine and Courttia Newland (eds), Afrobeat (London: Pulp Books, 1999)Google Scholar
  14. Karen McCarthy (ed.), Bittersweet: contemporary black women’s poetry (London: Women’s Press, 1998)Google Scholar
  15. Lemn Sissay (ed.), The Fire People: a collection of contemporary black British poets (Edinburgh: Payback Press, 1998)Google Scholar
  16. Ferdinand Dennis and Naseem Khan (eds), Voices of the Crossing: the impact of Britain on writers from Asia, the Caribbean and Africa (London: Serpents Tail, 2000)Google Scholar
  17. 12.
    For anthologies see: Onyekachi Wambu (ed.), Empire Windrush (London: Phoenix, 1999)Google Scholar
  18. James Procter (ed.), Writing black Britain 1948–1998 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000)Google Scholar
  19. 23.
    For example: Paul Gilroy, ‘The peculiarities of the black English’, in Small Acts: Thoughts on the Politics of Black Cultures (London: Serpent’s Tail, 1993)Google Scholar
  20. Stuart Hall, ‘New Ethnicities’, in Black Film/British Cinema, ICA Document 7 (London, Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1988), pp. 27–31Google Scholar
  21. and ‘Reinventing Britain: A Forum’, Wasafiri, 29 (1999), pp. 37–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kobena Mercer, Welcome to the Jungle: new positions in black cultural studies (London: Routledge, 1994)Google Scholar
  23. 24.
    Hall, op. cit. (1999), P. 37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 26.
    Alison Donnell, ‘Nation and Contestation: Black British Writing’, Wasafiri, 36 (2002), pp. 11–17; p. 16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 27.
    Gilroy, op. cit. (1993), p. 62.Google Scholar
  26. 28.
    Donnell, op. cit., p. 16.Google Scholar
  27. 29.
    Paul Gilroy, After Empire: melancholia and convivial culture? (Oxford: Routledge, 2004), p. 3 and xi.Google Scholar
  28. 32.
    Gilroy, op. cit. (2004), p. 134.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alison Donnell

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations