Black and Asian British Life Writing: Race, Gender and Representation in Selected Novels From the 1990s

Laursen, Ole Birk (2012). Black and Asian British Life Writing: Race, Gender and Representation in Selected Novels From the 1990s. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis explores six post-1990s black and Asian British women novelists and the ways in which they utilise life writing strategies in their novels. Using a comparative approach, it explores how their novels are informed by issues of diaspora, hybridity and cultural identity, and how these questions are implicitly linked to the autobiographical nature of their novels. Attention is paid to how these novelists represent their individual subjective identities and how their particular experiences are linked to the narrative structures of their novels. My contention is that these novelists employ autobiographical strategies in their novels to challenge in fictional form the dominant discourses of race, gender and cultural identity, and that such strategies allow these authors to re-imagine and re-assert their subjectivities in fiction. As a frame for my analysis, I focus on three themes - the politics of location, the notion of trauma and the narration of family - and examine how these six novelists utilise autobiographical strategies in order to explore these issues. This approach allows me to both identify some key characteristics which are common to black and Asian British women’s life writing as well as highlight differences which point to the diversity of this body of literature. My theoretical framework draws heavily on, first, feminist and postcolonial theorists and critics of autobiography and life writing and, second, black British cultural theorists and critics. Throughout the thesis, I interrogate the limitations of existing feminist and postcolonial autobiography and life writing theories when applied in this context, and address concerns over certain aspects of existing black British cultural theory.

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