Claude McKay and the transnational novel

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Walsh, Bairbre Anne Patricia
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University College Cork
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This thesis considers the three works of fiction of the Jamaican author Claude McKay (1889-1948) as a coherent transnational trilogy which dramatises the semi-autobiographical complexities of diasporic exile and return in the period of the 1920s and 1930s. Chapter One explores McKay’s urban North American novel, Home to Harlem (1928). I suggest that we need to ‘reworld’ conceptions of McKay’s writing in order to release him from his canonical confinement in the Harlem Renaissance. Querying the problematics of the city space, of sexuality and of race as they emerge in the novel, this chapter considers McKay’s percipient understanding of the need to reconfigure diasporic identity beyond the limits set by American nationalism. Chapter Two engages with McKay’s novel of portside Marseilles, Banjo (1929), and considers the homosocial interactions of the vagabond collective. A comparison of North America and France as supposed exemplars of individual liberty highlights the unsuitability of nationalistic prerogatives to an internally diverse black diaspora. Paul Gilroy’s Black Atlantic construct provides a suggestive space in which to re-imagine the possibilities of affiliation in the port. The latter section of the chapter examines McKay’s particular influence on, and relationship, to the Négritude movement and Pan-African philosophies. Chapter Three focuses on McKay’s third novel, Banana Bottom (1933). I suggest here that the three novels comprise a coherent New World Trilogy comparable to Edward (Kamau) Brathwaite’s trilogy, The Arrivants. This chapter considers both the Caribbean and the transnational dimensions to McKay’s work.
Claude McKay , Transnationalism , Black Atlantic , Fiction , Trilogy
Walsh, B.A.P., 2011. Claude McKay and the transnational novel. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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