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Durham University

Department of English Studies


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Publication details for Dr Jennifer Terry

Terry, J (2013). ‘When the sea of living memory has receded’ Cultural Memory and Literary Narratives of the Middle Passage. Memory Studies 6(4): 474-488.

Author(s) from Durham


This article considers the emergence of the slave Middle Passage between Africa and the Americas as a pervasive topic and figure in modern black diasporic literature. It explores representation of the Atlantic crossing alongside broader questions about the formation and mutation of group identity based on understandings and constructions of a shared past. Three textual examples, taken from the work of David Dabydeen, John Edgar Wideman, and Toni Morrison, are used to illustrate the agency, variety, and suggestiveness of this oceanic imaginary and to highlight some specific functions of literary media. Theories of collective and cultural memory help address concerns with memorialization; the recovery of “forgotten” histories; the role of cultural production; and counter, contextual, and shifting narratives of the past.

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