Representing slavery in selected works of Caryl Phillips, David Dabydeen and Fred D'Aguiar
This thesis explores how the authors Caryl Phillips, David Dabydeen and Fred D' Aguiar represent Britain's involvement in the transatlantic slave trade in their recent fiction, poetry and non-fictional works. My approach is enabled by the novel engagements I make across postcolonial, poststructuralist and Holocaust theory, and my readings are also informed by a close attention to the history of Britain's involvement in slavery between the mid-sixteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries. I explore each author's imaginative return to slavery in the late twentieth and early twentyfirst centuries, and the diverse problems experienced by Phillips, Dabydeen and D' Aguiar in so doing. I contend that three central concerns in returning to this past are: the history of slavery, the ethics of representing the trade, and the difficulty of how to remember slavery. In my first chapter, I explore Phillips's interest in, and concerns with, the historical archive and the voices missing from received history. In my second chapter, I discuss Dabydeen's struggle with the ethics of representing slavery and the problems of articulating this past. The third chapter focuses on the work of D' Aguiar, foregrounding his difficulties with the memory of slavery and the importance of counter-remembrance of this past. The UK's involvement in slavery has often been overlooked by historians or, when remembered, the focus tends to fall upon Britain's abolitionists; these authors arguably write partly in response to this inadequacy. To this end, this thesis is divided into three chapters: one on each of my primary authors. These chapters are preceded by a general introduction to the ethical, creative, historical and theoretical issues surrounding an imaginative return to the past of British slavery. I conclude by exploring the divergence and convergence of these varying issues in the works of Phillips, Dabydeen and D' Aguiar. Ultimately, this thesis asserts that imaginatively returning to the past of slavery" is all too necessary when faced with the struggle of multiculturalism in late-twentieth and early twenty-first-century Britain.