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Metaphor and the Slave Trade in West African Literature

Laura T. Murphy

Publication Year: 2012

Published by: Ohio University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

This work was first conceived in conversation with the incomparable Joseph Miller, who encouraged me, before the project was even a vague possibility, to pursue the questions about African literature that his history lectures provoked in me. His enthusiasm became a motivating force and eventually helped pave...

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pp. 1-8

Metaphor and the Slave Trade examines the hidden though significant role the transatlantic slave trade has played in the Anglophone West African imagination and the means by which it has been metaphorized in the literary production of the region. It explores how four canonical authors in particular—Amos...

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Chapter One: Against Amnesia: Metaphor and Memory in West Africa

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pp. 9-46

Metaphor and the Slave Trade explores the way the transatlantic slave trade has endured in the cultural memory of West Africa because people continue to generate discourse about the trade and, not insignificantly, because they continue to survive a legacy of suffering associated with it. Within the West...

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Chapter Two: Magical Capture in a Landscape of Terror: The Trope of the Body in the Bag in Amos Tutuola's "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts"

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pp. 47-74

One afternoon while young Olaudah Equiano’s parents worked in the fields, he spied an intruder kidnap the “stout” children of his neighbors two yards over. He shouted out to his friends, who caught the assailants and bound them, and together they waited for their parents to return home and punish the crime...

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Chapter Three: Geographies of Memory: Mapping Slavery's Recurrence in Ben Okri's "The Famished Road"

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pp. 75-105

Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua lived as a free man and a trusted servant in the court of the local king of Djougou,1 in what is today called Benin.2 As the king’s most treasured servant, he sat at the foot of the royal throne and drew the envy of his avaricious colleagues. In his self-published narrative of 1854...

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Chapter Four: The Curse of Constant Remembrance: The Belated Trauma of the Slave Trade in Ayi Kwei Armah's "Fragments"

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pp. 106-132

When European slave ships sailed into the port of Old Calabar in the late eighteenth century, Antera Duke, a wealthy local trader, welcomed them with a lengthy protocol that he and his merchant neighbors and family members had developed over generations of trading with Europeans. In a diary he kept...

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Chapter Five: Childless Mothers and Dead Husbands: The Enslavement of Intimacy and Ama Ata Aidoo's Secret Language of Memory

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pp. 133-168

Though the transatlantic slave trade was outlawed in Denmark in 1802, in England in 1807, in the United States in 1808, in Sweden and Norway in 1813, in the Netherlands in 1814, and in France both in 1794 and again in 1817 (after Napoleon reinstated the trade in 1802), the illicit trade in human lives was...

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Chapter Six: The Suffering of Survival

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pp. 169-179

When African-born Phillis Wheatley was less than twenty years old, she wrote what came to be one of the most famous poems in the American literary canon, a reflection on her experience of the transatlantic slave trade. In this poem, “On Being Brought from Africa to America,” she expresses her gratitude that the...

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Epilogue: The Future of the Past: The New Historical Fiction

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pp. 180-194

With the rise of African American cultural tourism, the launching of the UNESCO International Slave Routes project, the immigration of more African writers to the United States and Britain, as well as the growth of academic interest in the legacy of the slave trade, writers in the last decade (loosely the...


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pp. 195-218


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pp. 219-236


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pp. 237-244

E-ISBN-13: 9780821444122
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821419953

Publication Year: 2012