Itinerant narratives: travel, identity and literary form in Abdulrazak Gurnah’s fiction

Ruberto, M.N., 2009. Itinerant narratives: travel, identity and literary form in Abdulrazak Gurnah’s fiction. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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This study offers the first full-length single-author analysis of the fictional work of Abdulrazak Gurnah. Born in Zanzibar in 1948 and relocated to England at the age of eighteen, Gurnah has published seven novels so far, spanning from 1987 to 2005. A combination of lesser known works and critically acclaimed novels such as the Booker Prize shortlisted Paradise (1994), Gurnah’s oeuvre provides a fruitful terrain for an investigation of the complex dynamics by which the tropes of travel and identity intersect with the deployment and transformation of various literary forms. While there is a small but growing number of critical articles and book chapters discussing Gurnah’s work, there has been no in depth analysis of his fiction to date. Contrary to most of the work published on him so far, this study attempts to follow the development of Gurnah’s aesthetic by demonstrating the ways it is informed by his experience of exile and by the recent history of Zanzibar and East Africa. Furthermore, it will also consider how his experience as an academic and as a renowned critic in the field of postcolonial literature might also account for the ways in which his fiction often deals with the recovery of suppressed voices and histories. Drawing on a number of different cultural theorists such as Edward Said, James Clifford, and Caren Kaplan as well as on Gurnah’s critical work, this study provides a focussed approach to the thematics of dislocation and subject formation which are central to Gurnah’s literary oeuvre. The insistence on a historically oriented approach eschews a homogenisation of the experience of exile and allows the identification of specific traits characterising his works. The development of the notion of 'itinerancy', in conjunction with the expansion of anthropologist Victor Turner’s concept of liminality, will help to explicate the emphasis in Gurnah’s texts on threshold subjects and sites which question fixed notions of identity, citizenship and history. The intertwined concepts of itinerancy and liminality will also help to address the issue of literary form, to understand the ways in which the usage of specific literary genres or narratives adopted by Gurnah in his novels is connected to the development of his particular aesthetic. The bildungsroman, pilgrimage narrative, homecoming journey and historiographic metafiction are in turn deployed and transformed by the writer to accommodate the representation of different forms of displacement as well as the recounting of alternative versions of the past. The chapters making up this thesis take Gurnah’s novels in chronological order and demonstrate the need to consider this relatively neglected writer as a key figure in contemporary literature.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Ruberto, M.N.
Date: 2009
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 03 Mar 2016 10:11
Last Modified: 03 Mar 2016 10:11

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