Postcolonial Narrative and the Work of Mourning

J.M. Coetzee, Wilson Harris, and Toni Morrison

By Sam Durrant

Subjects: Psychoanalysis
Series: SUNY series, Explorations in Postcolonial Studies
Paperback : 9780791459461, 152 pages, January 2006
Hardcover : 9780791459454, 152 pages, December 2003

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Table of contents


Introduction: Specters of Colonialism

1. Speechless before Apartheid: J. M. Coetzee's Inconsolable Works of Mourning

2. Rites of Communion: Wilson Harris's Hosting of History

3. Keeping It in the Family: Passing on Racial Memory in the Novels of Toni Morrison

Conclusion: Some Kind of Community


Works Cited


A cross-cultural analysis of the work of Coetzee, Harris and Morrison, demonstrating that the fundamental task of postcolonial narrative is the work of mourning.


Sam Durrant's powerfully original book compares the ways in which the novels of J. M. Coetzee, Wilson Harris, and Toni Morrison memorialize the traumatic histories of racial oppression that continue to haunt our postcolonial era. The works examined bear witness to the colonization of the New World, U. S. slavery, and South African apartheid, histories founded on a violent denial of the humanity of the other that had traumatic consequences for both perpetrators and victims. Working at the borders of psychoanalysis and deconstruction, and drawing inspiration from recent work on the Holocaust, Durrant rethinks Freud's opposition between mourning and melancholia at the level of the collective and rearticulates the postcolonial project as an inconsolable labor of remembrance.

Sam Durrant is Lecturer of English at the University of Leeds.