• The Afrofuturist Historical Novel

    Whit Frazier Peterson (see profile)
    Cultural Studies, LLC African American, TC Race and Ethnicity Studies, TM Literary Criticism
    Afrofuturism, Historical fiction, American literature--African American authors, African Americans
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    The 30th Annual American Literature Association Conference
    Conf. Org.:
    African American Literature and Culture Association
    Conf. Loc.:
    Boston, MA
    Conf. Date:
    May 23 - May 26
    literary analysis, African American literature, New genre studies, African American
    Permanent URL:
    The recent surge of interest in Afrofuturism has resulted in some groundbreaking work looking at the ways technology and race intersect in film, fashion, music and literature, as is evidenced by the important collection of essays “Afrofuturism 2.0” (2016), edited by Reynaldo Anderson and Charles E. Jones. However there has not yet been an academic study of the Afrofuturist historical novel, a genre which includes such sub-genres as Steamfunk, Black Quantum Futurism and the Neo-Harlem Renaissance novel. My paper will begin to fill this gap by looking at four Afrofuturist historical novels by four prominent African American writers, namely The Underground Railroad (2016), by Colson Whitehead, Flight to Canada (1976), by Ishmael Reed, Kindred by Octavia Butler and Atlantis: Model 1924 (1995), by Samuel Delany. I will show how each of these novels, by introducing either modern- day technologies into historical narratives that typically would not include these technologies, or by including future events into past historical narratives, helps to enrich our understanding of the African American past, African American culture and the intersection of race and technology. I will argue that by conflating the past, present and future, the Afrofuturist historical novel interrogates technological innovations and national myths, and demonstrates how African Americans have appropriated technology and history in innovative ways to increase their own station, enrich their own culture and introduce counter-myths that challenge traditional myths. In conclusion, by opening up discussion of the Afrofuturist historical novel, I hope to open discussion of possible new hermeneutical approaches to African American literature in general.
    Last Updated:
    4 years ago
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