“British Black and Asian Literature will define the future”: Deirdre Osborne on the importance of the new Cambridge Companion

 Dr. Deirdre Osborne, co-founder of the MA in Black British Writing, and editor of the new Cambridge Companion to British Black and Asian Literature (1945-2010), talks in this video interview with Cambridge University Press about the importance of the new Companion, its relevance for decolonizing the curriculum, and how the inheritances of Black British writing have changed the English language forever. 

Dr. Osborne says that the decision to write the companion came from the tenuous footing held by the field of Black British literature in institutions in Britain, be those schools or universities. “I thought it was very important to have some formal marking of the whole field, and as one of the important responses to decolonizing the curriculum, which is absolutely necessary – to respond to generations who are asking for a diverse range of voices in literature and in the cultural exposure that they have at school and university. This book will respond to that.”


Speaking on the impact African, Caribbean and South Asian writers have had on British literature and culture, Dr. Osborne says:

“Writers whose provenance is from Africa and South Asia have had an immeasurable effect on Anglophone literature. It’s absolutely refashioned the way in which we even conceive of the English language and its uses – the imaginary landscape that can be drawn upon, what we hear. The sound of various poetics, whether its formally in the theatre onstage, whether its spoken word, whether its on the airwaves, whether its in readings of prose – these have taken away this expectation that was very much post-war, if we’re thinking of the period of the book, that there would be a certain kind of English spoken publicly.

These liberationist poets, as they are referred to in the book, started to challenge what might be the expectations of what can heard publicly, and that inheritance has of course carried on right up till now. It’s an absolutely extraordinary heritage for British writing and for British literature. This is something the MA in Black British Writing works on, because we need to embrace that in terms of education and what people are exposed to in literary culture.” 

The Cambridge Companion to British Black and Asian Literature (1945-2010) is out now and available to purchase from Cambridge University Press for £17.99.


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