Title

Black Atlantic Literature as Transnational Cultural Spaces

Document Type

Article

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Literature Compass

Volume

10

Issue

6

Publisher

Wiley

Publication Date

6-2013

First Page

508

Last Page

508

DOI

DOI: 10.1111/lic3.12061

Abstract

This essay makes the case for “Black Atlantic literature” as a transnational category of literary analysis, taking as examples the Jamaican-born writer Claude McKay, who lived his adult life in Europe, North Africa, and the United States; and South African author Peter Abrahams, who ultimately settled in Jamaica. The notion of the Black Atlantic is borrowed from sociologist Paul Gilroy, but this paper argues that the concept needs to be carefully broadened in scope, enriched in its recognition of the many layers of transnational cultural exchange, and reconciled with national models of cultural formation. But it is useful for shedding light on the work of writers such as McKay and Abrahams, who, when literary cultures in their own countries were virtually non-existent or mostly closed to Black writers, turned to an emerging international community of Black artists and intellectuals. Such authors wrote in conversation with a distinctive Black Atlantic literary tradition that fulfilled many of the cultural, social, and psychological needs met in other contexts by national cultures.