Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This dissertation examines the theoretical significance of slavery in contemporary novels by black writers of English and French expression. I contend that black authors like Gayl Jones, Edouard Glissant, Léonora Miano, Sherley Anne Williams, Jean Métellus, and Fred D’Aguiar use literature to revise historical narratives and generate new histories of slavery. By reading novels as historical texts, I theorize nonhistory as a critique of the epistemological limitations of historiography. I argue that Black Francophone and Anglophone Atlantic writers of the postcolonial and post-Jim Crow era narrate the past as a nonhistory whose discursive and aesthetic afterimages expose the disjointed experience of time engendered by the lived experience of antiblackness. This project questions the endurance of slavery in the black historical imagination. In thinking with black Anglophone and Francophone writers, I consider how literary texts explore complementary dimensions to historical inquiry. By theorizing nonhistory as a historiographical tool, I question what kinds of subjunctive knowledges might be invented to explain the often-disjointed experience of black time.
Lee, Xavier, "Nonhistory: Slavery and the Black Historical Imagination" (2022). Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dissertations. 618.