Laughing at Livingstone?
in Livingstone’s ‘Lives’
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The sixth chapter examines the ways in which Livingstone has been represented in creative literature. While this has hitherto been almost universally ignored, such fictional portrayals constitute a significant dimension of his reputation. It is notable, however, that fictional Livingstones only began to flourish in the later part of the twentieth century. The weakening of realism and the postmodern challenge to ‘objective’ representation offered new possibilities for the portrayal of historical characters. More important, however, were the political and intellectual shifts inaugurated by decolonisation. Under postcolonialism, this cherished icon of empire was radically rewritten. Examining work by Lennart Hagerfors, Marlene NourbeSe Philip and David Pownall, the chapter explores the ways that Livingstone was employed to debunk the Western myth of ‘discovery’, to ‘laugh back’ at the imperial centre, and to comment on both the linguistic legacy of imperialism and the complex relationship between Christianity and colonialism. Yet while postcolonialism spawned some of the most creative re-evaluations, an alternative image of Livingstone emerged from the context of South African apartheid. For Nadine Gordimer and Alan Paton, a radical and a liberal, Livingstone symbolised – in varying degrees – the breakdown of division and positive racial interaction.

Livingstone’s ‘Lives’

A metabiography of a Victorian icon


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