"All narratives are lies, man, an illusion"
buddhism and postmodernism versus racism in Charles Johnson"s middle passage and dreamer
In his 1990 novel Middle Passage, Charles Johnson creates a narrative of slavery and of a slave ship that in both stories (Middle Passage and Dreamer) differs from and follows the norms of more traditional adventures set at sea in some unusual ways. The narrator and main character, Rutherford Calhoun, a black ex-slave from southern Illinois, talks and thinks in a manner that seems very unlike any reader's expectations for such a character. Further, the story is set very specifically in the year 1830, allowing the observant reader to prove that there are various anachronisms in Middle Passage. While some may be unintentional or at least not directly intentional, others seem wholly intentional. Johnson's style and methods in the novel, as well as in his later novel Dreamer, raise many questions. Johnson uses elements of postmodernism with a very specific purpose: to allow Johnson to successfully fight, in a nonviolent way, to change the culture of which his work is a part. In the two novels, which each represent years of literary effort on his part, Johnson is often using the tools of postmodernism to construct the novels. The postmodern approach, rather than simply taking a given stance on intertextuality and the relation of previous authors and writings to the new work of art, uses these techniques in an oppositional way.
Park Cooper, P. (2011)., "All narratives are lies, man, an illusion": buddhism and postmodernism versus racism in Charles Johnson"s middle passage and dreamer, in Y. Hakutani (ed.), Cross-cultural visions in African American literature, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 191-203.
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