Continuities and divergences in Black autobiographies of Africa and the diaspora
Alabi, Ignatius Adetayo
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This study investigates what continuities and divergences exist among selected Black autobiographies. The selected autobiographies of slaves, creative writers, and political activists are discussed both as texts produced by individuals who are in turn products of specific societies at specific periods and as interconnected books. The project pays particular attention to the various societies that produce the autobiographies directly to identify influences of environmental and cultural differences on the texts. To foreground the network these autobiographies form, on the other hand, the study adopts a cross-cultural approach to examine the continuities and divergences in them. The texts analysed are selected from Africa, the United States, and the Caribbean. Chapter one discusses some previous studies in Black autobiographies, the comparative model for studying Black autobiographies, the choice of the term autobiography, what constitutes Black autobiographies, and the self-in-service-of-community pattern of Black autobiographies. Chapter two theorizes Blackness as one of the continuities in the texts studied and foregrounds its transformative capabilities. Since various Black societies have experienced one form of colonialism or another and are in one post-colonial stage or another, chapter three discusses the relevance of post-colonial theory to a transnational study of Black autobiographies. Chapter four discusses oral African autobiographies as parts of institutionalised autobiographical traditions in African societies and the ways in which features of orality influence the written forms of the genre. Chapter five situates slave autobiographies as counter-narratives to the colonial encounter in William Shakespeare's The Tempest. Along with chapter five, chapters six and seven examine the continuities in Black autobiographies in terms of Blackness, resistance, the importance of naming, community, and rewriting history in the face of racist accounts of the past, and divergences in relation to concepts of Africa, religion, gender, and language. The concluding chapter summarises the continuities and divergences earlier discussed and suggests possible future directions in the study of Black autobiographies.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeGingell, Susan; Cooley, Ronald W.
Copyright DateAugust 1998