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    Exodus as travelling theory: excavating the promised land in the African American imagination

    Hartnell, Anna (2007) Exodus as travelling theory: excavating the promised land in the African American imagination. Literature Compass 4 (3), pp. 552-560. ISSN 1741-4113.

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    Abstract

    Exodus, this article suggests, is one of the defining texts through which Americans have imaginatively re-mapped the nation's relationship to the spectre of ‘Egyptian’ oppression. This article proposes to consider the evolution of the Exodus text from its pivotal place in an often imperialist presidential rhetoric to its central position in African American elaborations of resistance. I suggest that the story of Exodus issuing from the lips of W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King or Toni Morrison crucially unsettles the ‘innocent’ position assumed by America's political establishment in relation to the enigmatic question of ‘freedom’. This article reviews the interruptive possibilities of African American re-tellings of the Exodus narrative in the context of Edward Said's notion of ‘travelling theory’. In his examination of theories devolved from their point of origin, Said poses a crucial distinction between theories that lose their critical power via domestication to the status quo and those which ‘flame out’ from this path by reaffirming and even furthering their radical potential. I argue here that it is these destablizing currents that largely animate the African American counter-cultural tradition that excavates the promised land in order to tell of a fundamentally ‘unhomely’ exodus. Where mainstream invocations of Exodus present America's rendition as an epochal overcoming of Hegel's seemingly inexorable master/slave dialectic, the appropriation of this story by America's internal ‘others’ is a standing reminder that America is not – contra Hegel's memorable suggestion – the destination of ‘History's’ end.

    Metadata

    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Schools and Departments > School of Arts > English and Humanities
    Research Centre: Contemporary Literature, Centre for
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 29 Jul 2014 08:40
    Last Modified: 07 Dec 2016 15:37
    URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/10284

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