From Elmina Castle to Eldritch Suburbia: The Haunted House in African and African American Imaginaries
Portrayals of the eerie, the uncanny, entrapment, terror, and so on have long been used by African and African American writers to critique histories of slavery and colonialism. These tropes intersect with and adapt the eighteenth-century Gothic tradition, giving rise to subgenres such as the Postcolonial Gothic, the Afro-Gothic and, most recently, what Sheri-Marie Harrison calls the New Black Gothic.
This talk begins with the image of the slave castle, particularly Ghana’s Elmina Castle (built by the Portuguese in 1482), as emblematic of horror in the black diaspora. Unlike English writer Horace Walpole’s fictional Castle of Otranto from his pioneering 1764 novel, slave castles such as Elmina speak to real terror experienced by millions of black people over centuries. The manifestation of gothic tropes, especially the haunted house or castle, thus carries a different symbolic weight in black diasporic imaginaries. Prof. Diana Mafe will touch on a few of these examples in African and African American fiction and conclude with a discussion of Jordan Peele’s 2017 film Get Out, which transposes the theme of black entrapment from the precolonial West African coast to twenty-first-century American suburbia.
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