9th Nov 2015 5:00pm-6:30pm
101 Mayfield House, Falmer Campus
In a 2011 Guardian article “Where are Britain’s black authors?,” novelist Catherine Johnson discusses the boom in white-authored stories about “other races and cultures,” suggesting that “the words of a white author are a comfortable buffer, a reassurance that nothing in the story will be too shocking, too hard to understand; the author is like you, and you can trust him or her to tell you this story in familiar terms.” Conspicuously absent from Johnson’s discussion is Zadie Smith, the young mixed race author from North London who burst on to the literary scene with a historic advance contract for the manuscript of the acclaimed White Teeth (2000). How does the case of Smith potentially reroute Johnson’s critique? Building on Zadie Smith’s comments in a publicity interview for her latest novel NW (2012) that “my life has gotten white compared to the life I grew up with. Because of the world I work in—it’s white,” this paper considers the dilemmas of upward mobility and whiteness as they have come to bear on Smith, who articulates and negotiates these pressures in a range of life writing modes (especially personal essays and autobiographical fiction).
Sarah Brophy is Professor of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University, where she pursues research on embodiment, autobiography, and visual culture; race, gender, sexuality, and disability; and post-1945 British literature. She is the author of Witnessing AIDS: Writing, Testimony, and the Work of Mourning (University of Toronto Press, 2004) and has also contributed to The End of Empire and the English Novel Since 1945, Contemporary Women’s Writing and Literature and Medicine. Together with Janice Hladki (McMaster) she has co-curated two exhibitions and has co-edited the interdisciplinary book, Embodied Politics in Visual Autobiography(University of Toronto Press 2014). Her current major project “Mind the Gap: Queer and Feminist Cosmopolitanisms” in Postwar Britain continues her thinking about embodied politics.
This event is free and open to all