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This review is taken from PN Review 161, Volume 31 Number 3, January - February 2005.

USABLE PASTS BRUCE KING, The Oxford English Literary History, Volume 13. 1948-2000 The Internationalization of English Literature (Oxford University Press) £30

Bruce King's contribution to The Oxford English Literary History is an invaluable resource for student, teacher and interested reader alike. Its values and its faults are those that accompany any survey filtered through the likes and dislikes of its author. Like a number of its counterparts, lately published, such as C.L. Innes A History of Black and Asian Writing in Britain (2002) and James Proctor's interdisciplinary sourcebook, Writing Black Britain 1948-1998 (2000) it seeks to document the complex and diverse histories of what are the variously and now somewhat perilously named, 'Commonwealth', 'Postcolonial' or 'New Literatures' in English as postcolonial literary studies, in particular, enters a new phase and with that seeks to meet new critical challenges and questions. The structure of the book is both its strength and at times, a limitation. Divided by decade and by genre, each of its chapters is prefaced by a survey of the key social, legal and cultural changes of the period followed by a critical introduction to both prominent and less well-known writers in the genres of poetry, fiction and drama. Here, King works to illustrate the connections in and between generations of writers from a range of locations across the postcolonial continuum (with some definite exclusions), at once pointing up shared inheritances or crossing publishing histories, the rise and fall of individual presses and theatre companies. At the same time, he charts the influences of Wilson Harris, Wole Soyinka or Derek Walcott on later writers like David ...


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