Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-dc8c957cd-6mxsq Total loading time: 0.359 Render date: 2022-01-27T04:52:46.761Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

Book contents

22 - After Empire: Postcolonial Short Fiction and the Oral Tradition

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 November 2016

John Thieme
Affiliation:
University of East Anglia
Dominic Head
Affiliation:
University of Nottingham
Get access

Summary

The spread of the English language as a consequence of imperialism and English's popularity as a lingua franca in the age of globalization have significantly broadened the range and timbre of short stories written in English. This chapter examines ways in which the short story has been refashioned by Anglophone postcolonial writers, with a particular focus on how the incorporation of oral elements has reinvigorated the genre. In African and Asian societies that were subjected to British colonization, the transformations that the short story has undergone have been particularly influenced by traditional tale-telling modes. In the Anglophone Caribbean, where the majority populations are Afro-Caribbean descendants of slaves and Indo-Caribbean descendants of indentured labourers, the lines of cultural continuity have been more fractured, but there has also been an uneasy, yet highly productive dialogue between the conventions of the English short story and the oral traditions of local communities. The genocide of the pre-Columbian indigenous peoples of the region left few survivors to bring their narrative traditions into print, but the fiction of Guyanese-born writers Wilson Harris and Pauline Melville has brought aspects of their legends into the short story. Elsewhere in the Americas and in Australasia, despite suffering violence and dispossession at the hands of settler populations, indigenous voices have survived to articulate the experiences of their communities in short fiction.

The vast range of themes and forms to be found in African short stories makes it difficult to generalize about ways in which writers across the continent have employed the genre, but some commonalities exist. In pre-colonial sub-Saharan African societies, tale-telling was a lynch-pin of cultural continuity, serving as a vehicle for imparting ethical instruction as well as a medium of entertainment, and the griot, or storyteller, occupied a revered role in communities, acting as the oral repository of their collective wisdom. Postcolonial African writers have sometimes seen themselves as the linear descendants of griots, charged with a similar responsibility to educate the recipients of their work, while also entertaining them through the power of story. However, as Helon Habila points out, ‘It's a sad but apparently undeniable fact that the short story has always taken second place to the novel in Africa.’

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2016

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Awadalla, Maggie and March-Russell, Paul, eds., The Postcolonial Short Story: Contemporary Essays (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2012).
Bardolph, Jacqueline, ed., Short Fiction in the New Literatures in English (Nice: Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines de Nice, 1989).
Bardolph, Jacqueline, ed., Telling Stories: Postcolonial Short Fiction in English (Amsterdam and Atlanta, GA: Rodopi, 2001).
Evans, Lucy, McWatt, Mark and Smith, Emma, eds., The Caribbean Short Story: Critical Perspectives (Leeds: Peepal Tree Press, 2011).

Send book to Kindle

To send this book to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Send book to Dropbox

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×