Odysseys Home: Mapping African-Canadian Literature
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Published: December 2002© 2002
504 Pages, 7.00 x 9.90 x 1.20 in
Odysseys Home: Mapping African-Canadian Literature is a pioneering study of African-Canadian literary creativity, laying the groundwork for future scholarly work in the field. Based on extensive excavations of archives and texts, this challenging passage through twelve essays presents a history of the literature and examines its debt to, and synthesis with, oral cultures. George Elliott Clarke identifies African-Canadian literature's distinguishing characteristics, argues for its relevance to both African Diasporic Black and Canadian Studies, and critiques several of its key creators and texts.
Scholarly and sophisticated, the survey cites and interprets the works of several major African-Canadian writers, including André Alexis, Dionne Brand, Austin Clarke, Claire Harris, and M. Nourbese Philip. In so doing, Clarke demonstrates that African-Canadian writers and critics explore the tensions that exist between notions of universalism and black nationalism, liberalism and conservatism. These tensions are revealed in the literature in what Clarke argues to be – paradoxically – uniquely Canadian and proudly apart from a mainstream national identity.
Clarke has unearthed vital but previously unconsidered authors, and charted the relationship between African-Canadian literature and that of Africa, African America, and the Caribbean. In addition to the essays, Clarke has assembled a seminal and expansive bibliography of texts – literature and criticism – from both English and French Canada. This important resource will inevitably challenge and change future academic consideration of African-Canadian literature and its place in the international literary map of the African Diaspora.
'It is inconceivable that, after this bibliography is published, any Canadianists would seriously advance an interpretive hypothesis about the field without grounding it in a careful reading of the material listed here. Gone, too, will be that oft heard reason some scholars (Canadianists, Americanists, Africanists, and students of the literature and culture of the African Diaspora) make for excluding African-Canadian texts from their courses and studies: there are no (or few) good books by African-Canadians. Listing virtually every scholar, writer, journal and serial, and bibliographies associated with African-Canadian culture, the bibliography is so exhaustive and current that it is fair to say that, in the foreseeable future, it will provide the foundation for scholarship in African-Canadian and Canadian studies.'Uzoma Esonwanne, Department of English, Saint Mary's University
'Governor General's Award-winning poet (playwright, librettist, critic) George Elliott Clarke is himself very much on the literary map of Canada - and the world. In this new book, he acts as master cartographer and continues his work putting African-Canadian literature as a whole on that map. With its invaluable bibliography of literature by African-Canadian authors (in itself eloquent testimony to Black creativity in this country) and with its incisive critical articles and feisty reviews (all written in the most sumptuous and provocative prose), this book will change forever how Canada thinks of its literature.'Linda Hutcheon, Department of English, University of Toronto
'This is an original and comprehensive study of a rich and varied tradition. Odysseys Home is essential reading for anyone interested in the rich Black cultures of the New World, how they have survived in Canada, and how they flourish today. George Elliott Clarke has an erudite and distinctive voice.'Françoise Lionnet, Professor and Chair, French and Francophone Studies, UCLA
'Odysseys Home quite simply remaps the history of the African Diaspora; it will no longer be possible, in its aftermath, to address the Atlantic-Africana field without taking into consideration that massive geopolitical/cultural/material complex situated north of the 49th parallel and its African-Canadian communities from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Our work will be harder now, but for all that, richer, truer, more complete. We offer profound gratitude to George Elliott Clarke for lighting the passage.'Hortense Spillers, Department of English, Cornell University