Black Women in Ivory Towers: Race, Gender, and Class in British Campus Fiction
Keywords:Race, Gender, Class, Campus Fiction, Women Academics, Britain
How twentieth-century British women authors represent women academics in their fiction has been recently studied, but one key element has been missing: race. The twentieth century saw the systematic dismantling of the British Empire, increasing Commonwealth immigration, and rising racial tensions at home, as evidenced by the 2011 riots in north London. Yet given the close relationship between cultural and literary history, there seems to be no evidence of these dramatic cultural changes within the campus novel genre. Using Crenshaw's highly critical term "intersectionality," this study focuses simultaneously on the lived experiences of Black women academics (through history, biography, and ethnographic study), as well as the literary interpretations of those lives. Focusing particularly on Judith Cutler's Dying Fall and Ahdaf Soueif's In the Eye of the Sun, this essay argues that the absence of and/or "white-washed" representations of Black Minority Ethnic (BME) women in British campus novels signifies how BME women's experiences are either rendered invisible or are subsumed under cultural norms of whiteness and middle-class identity.