Narrating Africa: George Henty and the Fiction of Empire

Narrating Africa: George Henty and the Fiction of Empire

Narrating Africa: George Henty and the Fiction of Empire

Narrating Africa: George Henty and the Fiction of Empire

Synopsis

Narrating Africa: George Henty and the Fiction of Empireoffers a critique of colonialist discourse and focuses on George Henty's novels as a prototype of the literature that emerged with the rise of British imperialism, in an attempt to assess the role of nineteenth-century literature both in the perpetuation of stereotypes vis--vis Africa and in the socialization of young adults. Its approach is "postcolonial" inasmuch as it breaks traditional disciplinary boundaries by analyzing and critiquing literature within historical, political, economic, and cultural contexts that enable the production, reception, and import of literary texts. Indeed today's cultural, economic, and political hegemony of Europe and the United States over Africa has a legacy deeply rooted in nineteenth-century ideologies of imperialism, colonialism, and "race," as well as in repercussions of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Thus the image of Africa as the "Dark continent," resulting from the activities of the Atlantic Slave Tradeand early Victorian explorers and missionaries, won further popularity among Victorians from all walks of life through adventure stories which became one of the vehicles for the dissemination of imperialist ideologies and concept. Narrating Africa: George Henty and the Fiction of Empireunveils the legacy, endurance, and impact of colonial stereotyping with these factors in perspective.

Excerpt

Say it loud
I’m Black and proud
Say it loud
I’m Black and proud….

—James Brown

“Why is it necessary for someone to write a song that celebrates Black pride?” Growing up in a country that did not call for the affirmation of Black pride, I used to ask myself this question. in the 1970s, we danced to James Brown’s music without any serious thought of why or how he came to sing “I’m Black and proud.” Although I was familiar with the history of the Black diaspora, segregation, Jim Crow, lynchings, and racism were not part of our everyday reality and vocabulary—they were foreign. It was not until I came to the United States, first in the summer of 1985 as a camp counselor, and in 1988 to study, that I began to understand and appreciate the import of James Brown’s lyrics: the need for the affirmation of Black pride. I came to realize that it was—and still is—necessary to articulate that pride, because “I’m Black and proud” was necessitated by the way racism was affecting the lives of African Americans. Unlike the writers of empire discussed in this book—writers who proclaimed the white supremacy myth—James Brown neither spoke of Black “superiority,” nor White “inferiority.”

My work on Henty’s African novels is a step toward understanding the essence of James Brown’s “I’m Black and proud”—an essence designed to counter works such as Henty’s. My sojourn in the United States has led me to the realization that Henty’s ideas (myths) are still prevalent; it then becomes expedient to “deconstruct” these myths since

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