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The Politics of Creation: The short story in South Africa and the US

Lloren Addison Foster, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This study focuses on Blackness and shows how changes in its meaning reflect arguments about the short story as a fictional form. I argue that Blackness, as a socially constructed identity marker and the corresponding discourse designed to reify Whiteness, led to the evolution of an aesthetic consciousness that found critical and creative expression during the Black Power and Black Consciousness movements of the 1960s and 70s. In a process I call the "Politics of Creation," where Blackness and the short story move towards self-definition, we discover that Blackness and the short story reshape the socially constructed groupings designed to "fix" categories of people and genres. In chapter one reviewing the relevant literature concerning the origins of racial prejudice proves instructive for understanding the role of narrative in constructing discursive categories: i.e. Blackness and Whiteness. Chapter two addresses the historical context and introduces this study's attitudinal "common ground." In chapter three, we see how the collective identity of a community, marginalized by the "majority" status society (in this respect, the "imagined community" of Blackness), coalesces in response to white domination and becomes part of the larger culture of resistance known as the African diaspora. Examining Black participation in the discourse shows how "essentialism" racialized the ideological discourse. Chapter four reviews the critical literature on the short story and shows how its diminishment as a "minor" form of fiction, is analogous to the process by which Blackness was "othered." In chapter five, the short story and Blackness meet in a discussion of the aesthetic issues that fostered the explosion of African and Black Short Story anthologies and the growth of a critical discourse to offset the prejudicial attitudes expressed under the guise of "universalism." Using representative short stories by Henry Dumas, Toni Cade Bambara, Njabulo Ndebele, and Sindiwe Magona, chapter six addresses storytelling as "expressive" common ground, while revealing the "conflicts of unity" to Black solidarity. Chapter seven closes with a discussion of the commonalities I find in their writing styles. African American, African/a, Literary, Cultural, and Genre Studies will benefit from this study's insights into Black American and South African's reconsiderations of Blackness.

Subject Area

Comparative literature|African literature|Black studies|American literature

Recommended Citation

Foster, Lloren Addison, "The Politics of Creation: The short story in South Africa and the US" (2007). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3299400.