Gothic urbanism in contemporary African fiction
Permanent link to this Item
Link to Journal
University of Cape Town
This project surveys representations of the African city in contemporary Nigerian and South African narratives by focusing on how they employ Gothic techniques as a means of drawing the African urban landscape into being. The texts that comprise my objects of study are South African author Henrietta Rose-Innes's Nineveh (2011), which takes as its setting contemporary Cape Town; Lagoon (2014) by American-Nigerian author Nnedi Okorafor, who sets her tale in present-day Lagos; and Zoo City (2010) by Lauren Beukes, another South African author who locates her narrative in a near-future version of Johannesburg. I find that these fictions are bound by a shared investment in mobilising the apparatus of the Gothic genre to provide readers with a unique imagining of contemporary African urbanity. I argue that the Gothic urbanism which these texts unfold enables the ascendance of generative, anti-dualist modes of reading the contemporary African city that are simultaneously real and imagined, old and new, global and local, dark and light - modes that perform as much a discourse of the past as a dialogue on the future. The study concludes by making some reflections on the future-visions that these Gothic urban-texts elicit, imaginings that I argue engender useful reflection on the relationship between culture and environment, and thus prompt the contemporary reader to consider the global future - and, as such, situate Africa at the forefront of planetary discourse. I suggest that Nineveh, Lagoon and Zoo City produce not simply a Gothic envisioning of Africa's metropolitan centres, but also a budding Gothic aesthetic of the African Anthropocene. In contrast to the 1980's tradition of Gothic writing in Africa, these novels are opening up into the twenty-first century to reflect on the future of the African city - but also on the futures that lie beyond the urban, beyond culture, beyond the human.
Hugo, E. 2016. Gothic urbanism in contemporary African fiction. University of Cape Town.