Date of Award


Degree Type


University or Center

Clark Atlanta University(CAU)

Degree Name



African-American Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Daniel P. Black


This study explores the relationship of the Outlyer/Maroon tradition and historical reality to the form and content of Michelle Cliffs novels Abeng and No Telephone to Heaven in order to demonstrate how a literary theory of Outlyerism derives from distinct aspects and phenomena of Outlyer/Maroon culture and tradition. The social, political, and military strategies used by Outlyers can be roughly grouped into eight categories: 1. Conjuring 2. Camouflage 3. Creolization 4. Rapid movements from one area to another 5. Military Ambush 6. Primacy of Elders 7. Primacy of Rituals 8. Use of communciative instruments in a network of military signification.

While the Outlyers used these strategies as forms of resistance in an historical space to combat European hegemony and cultural imperialism, Cliff employs and manipulates them, figuratively, in the literary space towards the same end, such that these strategies become literary and historical tropes in her contouring of the form and content of her novels and give heightened import to the notion of creative resistance.

The creation of a literary theory of Outlyerism was designed so that critics might reconfigure the ways in which black resistance and nation building are theorized and discussed. Situating Cliff's texts within the Outlyerist vein takes care, then, not to use theories of marginalization to center the very hegemonic systems which work to oppress minority groups.

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