Gothic Realism and Other Genre F(r)ictions in Contemporary Black Canadian Writing
Keywords:realism, gothic, Wayde Compton, Esi Edugyan, Black Canadian
Focusing on works by Wayde Compton and Esi Edugyan, I analyze the mix of realism, the gothic and other speculative forms in contemporary Black Canadian writing with a view to considering the kind of literary-historical and political work this mix performs. I address current debates about the “genre turn” as well as the (re)turn of / to realism in contemporary literature, and I argue that a supplementary logic governs the introduction of the gothic or speculative within realism in Black Canadian works attentive to the occlusions of the historical archive. I argue that more than “highlighti[ng] the gaps … in the national imaginary” as Cynthia Sugars has argued of the gothic, the friction between realism and the speculative allows these writers to introduce a different epistemology, a different ontology and a different model of the social. While realism’s own contradictions afford it an internal reflexivity that mediates its historical determination, it remains inadequate to the task of translating ways of knowing and being that operate outside of (neo)liberal governmentality even as they are subject to it. In writing both in the “realist prose” of the current political arrangements and the languages those arrangements cannot or will not speak, Compton and Edugyan not only make sensible and perceptible sites of knowing and being that are outside of the present order, but serve to ground collective socio-political imagining anew.