Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG488H1S - L0201

ENG488H1S  L0101   W4-6
Black British Writing in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Century
Nathan Murray
Office Location: TBA 

Brief Description of Course: In 1948, the British Nationality Act granted UK Citizenship to every citizen of a Commonwealth nation. The same year, the HMS Windrush arrived bearing 693 Jamaican nationals seeking a new life in the ‘mother country,’ the first of many such ships. This resulted in a huge demographic shift for the United Kingdom, which today is home to almost two million citizens who are people of colour. Unified only by their difference from the white majority, immigrants from African, Caribbean and South Asian colonies were together described first as West Indians and then Black British, a designation only now being untangled. This course explores Black British writing from 1948 until the present, examining how blackness is conceived of by British people of colour, especially in contrast to African-Americans. Specifically, the course seeks to explore the unique double consciousness that Black British writers had to negotiate. Informed by a colonial education that taught them British values and valorized British literature and culture, immigrants from Britain’s colonies had to articulate their new identities as outsiders in a space that was often hostile to their presence. From these often challenging beginnings, these writers produced a distinct, insightful and often joyful body of work. Questions we will consider include how whiteness emerges as a distinct idea in Britain in response to the growth of the immigrant community, how writers manage both their relationship with their new surroundings as well as their home countries, and how writers conceive of the self in relation to the fictional characters they construct.

Required Reading: Samuel Selvon, The Lonely Londoners (1956); V.S. Naipaul, A House for Mr Biswas (1961); Linton Kwesi Johnson, Mi Revalueshanary Fren: Selected Poems (2002; poems ranging from 1974-2001); Buchi Emecheta, Second-Class Citizens (1974); debbie tucker green, born bad (2003); Zadie Smith, White Teeth (2000);  Malorie Blackman, Noughts and Crosses (2001); Zadie Smith, Swing Time (2016)

First Three Authors/Texts: Gilroy, Selvon, Naipaul

Method of Instruction: Discussion-based seminar

Method of Evaluation: Participation: 20%, short paper: 20%, presentation: 20%, final paper: 40%

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