Beyond black British writing: the magical realism of Bernardine Evaristo and Helen Oyeyemi

Miles, Cressida (2019) Beyond black British writing: the magical realism of Bernardine Evaristo and Helen Oyeyemi. (MA(R) thesis), Kingston University, .


This dissertation explores the fictional writing of two contemporary black British authors, Bernardine Evaristo and Helen Oyeyemi. The first decades of the twenty-first century have witnessed the emergence of a new generation of black British writers. These writers, born or brought up from an early age in Britain, demonstrate in their fictional narratives a polycultural consciousness and a new European or global sensibility. This contemporary black British writing represents a significant shift away from the predominant concerns with the ideas of the nation, of belonging and race traditionally associated with the black British literature of the latter decades of the twentieth century and expresses a determination to create a new fictional space for the twenty-first-century black writer of Britain. Many of this new generation of, predominantly female, black British writers employ magical realism in their fictions. This dissertation explores how magical realism is used by the contemporary black British writer and identifies that Evaristo and Oyeyemi employ the narrative mode in very different ways and to differing extents. It argues that the varied ways and the extent to which the black British writer uses the magical realist tropes and devices is determined by and reflects the differing experiences of that writer according to their specific cultural heritages, family histories and situation. The use of magical realism allows the expression of a new consciousness that has developed from but is a significant movement beyond the earlier writing of their black British literary predecessors. This dissertation argues that it is the contemporary black British writer’s appropriation of the magical realist mode that affords the expression of a new post-racial, multi-ethnic sensibility and global worldview.

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