Decolonizing cultural memory in Andrea Levy's Small Island

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    This article examines Andrea Levy’s 2004 novel Small Island as a postcolonial trauma novel that revisions cultural memory of World War II and its aftermath. Utilising the insights of Stef Craps’s Postcolonial Witnessing, it explores the ways in which Levy’s text redresses the marginalization of non-western and minority trauma and addresses the under-explored relationship between First and Third World traumas. Eschewing classic western definitions of trauma as a point of rupture and fragmentation, the novel provides an alternative trauma aesthetic based on the power of storytelling and the use of humour to mitigate the traumatic losses of the past. Drawing on Michael Rothberg’s notion of “multidirectional memory”, it argues that Small Island employs a notion of cultural memory as heterogenous to suggest strong continuities in the experience of Black and white men and women before and after the war in terms of the long history of colonialism.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)555-569
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of Postcolonial Writing
    Issue number4
    Early online date15 Jul 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2019


    • Andrea Levy
    • decolonizing theory
    • Black British history
    • World War II
    • trauma narrative
    • multidirectional memory
    • Literature and Literary Theory


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