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'Reading Against the Grain: Reading The Long Song intertextually'

Lawson Welsh, Sarah ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2270-057X (2022) 'Reading Against the Grain: Reading The Long Song intertextually'. ARIEL: An international Review of English, 53 (1-2). pp. 193-197.

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This article reflects on the deliberately situated and continuously evolving decolonizing strategies I have used to teach Andrea Levy’s The Long Song in the decade since its first publication in 2010. I suggest some of the ways in which teachers and educators can include both Levy’s novel and the 2018 three-part BBC television adaptation in their teaching. Key to my pedagogical approach is enacting critical reflexivity and teaching students to read contrapuntally or “against the grain” using a Caribbean archive of historiographical intertexts to the novel, sources which Levy herself used while writing The Long Song. The article suggests teaching approaches that not only allow for an aesthetic appreciation of The Long Song as a literary text but also facilitate wider political discussions of race, difference, and “history” and a critically informed response to wider transnational contexts—such as Britain’s often occluded colonial and black Atlantic history or Canada’s reassessment of its history of “polite racism.” On one level, Levy’s final novel can be read as a compelling neo-slave narrative, a historiographic metafiction that playfully and self-consciously probes the nature of narrative and how H/history is constructed. However, it is also important to read the novel within a Caribbean and black Atlantic context, rather than simply as historical fiction or as an example of postmodern playfulness. I examine how looking at the novel’s contexts and intertexts can shape an understanding of the novel as a response to a wider archive of white colonial writers as well as other important—though less privileged—sources, such as slave narratives. These, I argue, are key to a wider understanding of the novel and its focus on the nature of textuality, the different valences of oral and written storytelling, and the crucial question of how history is written.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1990 Broadcasting
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theatre
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
School/Department: School of Humanities
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/5815

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