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Name: Bethan Evans

PhD: English literature: postcolonial and black British writing, the publishing industry and short fiction

Thesis Title: Publishing black British short stories: the potential and place of a marginalised form


Thesis Description:

This project explores the potential and place of the black British short story. It seeks to demonstrate that short fiction operates outside of the marketing and publisher-led canonisation of black writing in Britain, which is centred on the promotion of ‘contemporary novels about multiculturalism’ (Perfect, 2014, p. 12) with metropolitan or urban settings. Black British short stories create dissident narrative spaces which can interrupt the narrativization of multicultural Britain and challenge the homogeneity of black British writing enforced by the publishing industry. This research project will bring together three critical points of consideration: (i) the authority of the publishing industry over what kind of writing receives commercial support, and the place of digital publishing in relation to this; (ii) the possibilities offered by short fiction as a form, including its brevity, its marginality, and its inversion of discursive hierarchies and structures (see: Hunter, 2007; Awadalla & March-Russell, 2013); and, (iii) the social and cultural status of the black British short story in reference to the development of black writing as a literary category in Britain.

Short fiction occupies a liminal space between high and low culture: it is used to determine a writer’s literary potential through competitions, but is often published in literary magazines or via online blogs and anthologies, rather than by corporate publishing houses. It is frequently regarded as somewhere between the novel and poetry, and its particular formal qualities are often neglected in critical and commercial responses. Although many black writers may remain alert to publishers’ expectations about the stylistic, formal, and thematic restraints over their work, which includes the expectation that their work will uphold a positive representation of multicultural Britain and feature urban or metropolitan settings, the short story provides an opportunity to circumvent their co-option via its position of ‘marginal interest’ (Awadalla & March-Russell, 2013, p. 8).  The proposed project will provide an extensive study of the critically and commercially neglected black British short story. It will track the form’s history of publication in magazines, journals and printed anthologies and collections thus far, and investigate the opportunities offered by short fiction to highlight narratives beyond mainstream black writing, such as non-urban and pre-Windrush, in the contemporary marketplace. The project will explore alternative publishing platforms, such as online spaces, and demonstrate the potential of the digital publishing environment for writers to challenge expectations around black British writing.


Supervisors and Institution(s): 

Dr Jenni Ramone NTU

Dr Corinne Fowler UoL

Prof. Nahem Yousaf NTU


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