Black Odysseysexplores creative works by artists of ultimately African descent, which respond to the HomericOdyssey. Considering what the ancient Greek epic has signified for those struggling to emerge from the shadow of Western imperialism, and how it has inspired anti-colonial poets, novelists, playwrights, and directors, McConnell examines twentieth- and twenty-first century works from Africa and the African diaspora, including the Caribbean and the United States. In seeking to discover why theOdyssey, as a founding text of the Western canon, has been of such interest to these artists, the great plurality of post-colonial and anti-colonial responses becomes clear: responses that differ dramatically from each other, even in the attitude adopted towards Odysseus himself. Since Aime Cesaire's seminal 1939 poem,Cahier d'un retour au pays natal(Notebook of a Return to My Native Land), theOdyssey's homecoming trope and quest for identity have inspired writers who are simultaneously striving against and appropriating the very forms which had been used to oppress them. Following in the wake of Cesaire, this volume proceeds chronologically and considers works by Ralph Ellison, Derek Walcott, Jon Amiel, Wilson Harris, Njabulo Ndebele, and Jatinder Verma.
Justine McConnell is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Oxford University's Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama, working on the 'Performing Epic' project. She is co-editor of Ancient Slavery and Abolition: from Hobbes to Hollywood (OUP, 2011) with Edith Hall and Richard Alston, and of a forthcoming volume, The Oxford Handbook of Greek Drama in the Americas, with Kathryn Bosher, Fiona Macintosh, and Patrice Rankine.
Table of Contents
List of illustrations
Introduction: The Odysseys of Postcolonialism
1. A Martiniquan Ithaca: Aime Cesaire's Cahier d un retour au pays natal
2. Invisible Odysseus and the Cyclops: Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man
3. The 'unread' Homer: Derek Walcott's Omeros and The Odyssey: A Stage Version
4. A Deep South Odyssey: Jon Amiel's Sommersby
5. Cross-Cultural Nostoi: Wilson Harris' The Mask of the Beggar
6. South African Penelopes: Njabulo Ndebele's The Cry of Winnie Mandela
Coda: New Directions: Jatinder Verma and Tara Arts
Conclusion: Rewriting Odysseys
Appendix: Interview with Jatinder Verma