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C. L. R. James and Creolization

C. L. R. James and Creolization: Circles of Influence

Nicole King
Copyright Date: 2001
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  • Book Info
    C. L. R. James and Creolization
    Book Description:

    C. L. R. James (1901-1989), one of the most important intellectuals of the twentieth century, expressed his postcolonial and socialist philosophies in fiction, speeches, essays, and book-length scholarly discourses. However, the majority of academic attention given to James keeps the diverse mediums of James's writing separate, focuses on his work as a political theorist, and subordinates his role as a fiction writer.

    This book, however, seeks to change such an approach to studying James. Defining creolization as a process by which European, African, Amerindian, Asian, and American cultures are amalgamated to form new hybrid identities and cultures, Nicole King uses this process as a means to understanding James's work and life. She argues that, throughout his career, whether writing a short story or a political history, James articulated his attempt to produce revolutionary, radical discourses with a consistent methodology.

    James, a Trinidad-born scholar who migrated to England and then to the United States and who described himself both as a black radical and a Victorian intellectual, serves as a definitive model of creolization.

    King argues that James's writings also fit the model of creolization, for each is influenced by diverse types of discourses. James rarely wrote from within the confines of a single discipline, instead choosing to make the layers of history, literature, philosophy, and political theory coalesce in order to make his point. As his West Indian and Western European influences converge in his work and life, he creates texts that are difficult to confine to a specific category or discipline. No matter which writerly medium he uses, James was preoccupied with how to represent the individual personality and at the same time represent the community.

    The C. L. R. James that emerges from King's study is a man made more compelling and more human because of his complicated, multilayered, and sometimes contradictory allegiances.

    Nicole King is an associate professor of literature at the University of California (San Diego). She has been published inSoundingsand the forthcoming bookMinds, Bodies, Blackness.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-601-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    (pp. xix-2)
    (pp. 3-29)

    In 1975, C. L. R. James wrote a five-hundred-word piece titled “Cricket and Race.” Most of the short piece is taken up by the theme of “racial ideas” and sport, a subject James says he would have liked to have discussed with his recently deceased friend of six decades, Sir Learie Constantine. James asserts, “I believe the Constantine I knew would have been an ally against these racial ideas, benign as they may appear.” James’s extreme distaste for the tendency of the press to construct racial essentialisms around black sportsmen and his own globalized stance on the nexus of race,...

    (pp. 30-51)

    “There is no drama like the drama of history” wrote James in his historical study of the Haitian Revolution,The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution(1938). Indeed, between 1792 and 1804, the French Caribbean colony of San Domingo accomplished what was to be the only successful slave rebellion in the history of the New World by defeating Napoleon, the British, and the Spanish. (Upon their victory the people of San Domingo reclaimed the Amerindian name of their country, Haiti. I use the two names interchangeably.) In 1936, drawing from his manuscript notes and research for the...

    (pp. 52-77)

    The relationship of the individual to the community characterizes many twentieth-century Caribbean novels and is fundamental to the bildungsroman (coming-of-age novel); it is also a central concern within James’s fiction and nonfiction writings. The creative history making that James undertakes in his two narratives of the San Domingo Revolution and his particular focus on Toussaint in the history both have precedent in his novel,Minty Alley. As theJacobinstexts seek to advance a black revolutionary trajectory,Minty Alleyseeks to disrupt the cultural norms of respectability of early-twentieth-century Trinidadian society as well as some of the conventions of the...

    (pp. 78-101)

    George Lamming’s words penned in the 1983 introduction to his classic novel of 1953,In the Castle of My Skin,speak to some of the power held by novelists writing from anticolonial positions. James recognized and called attention to that particular reservoir of power at different points of his career. In this chapter, I examine James’s views on the “Negro Question,” his reliance on specific narrative techniques to express these views, and his usage of a creolist methodology to compose new and revise more standard Leninist responses to the query. This discussion places James in conversation with Richard Wright, who...

    (pp. 102-117)

    Seamus Heaney’s statement announces the outline and concerns of this chapter: America is a text that James sets out to read; America also affords him an entry into new families that provide him with a series of foundations.¹ In addition to existing as a text and community for James, America becomes the locus out of which he, and his JFT associates, develop a revolutionary Marxism. In “writing” America James “writes” himself; he exposes to his reader his own vulnerabilities alongside his trenchant critique of America’s systems of power.² In 1953, at the end of his stay in America, James paradoxically...

    (pp. 118-142)

    InBeyond a Boundary(1963) James makes two principle claims about cricket: it possesses a particular and discernible aesthetic value as high art and, in its West Indian articulations in the early and mid-twentieth century, functions as an instrument of a developing resistant nationalism. I see both of these functions as part of James’s most sophisticated, if flawed, epistemological foray into creolization theory. Writing during the same period, Ralph Ellison uses several essays both to claim and to showcase jazz as a composite artistic form that best signifies Americanness.

    This chapter relies upon Gilroy’s notion of “special relationships” and “the...

  12. CODA
    (pp. 143-144)

    A conclusion would be antithetical to the theoretical spirit of this project and so instead I return to the so-called beginning: In mistakenly uncovering the Americas while supposedly en route to the treasures of the East, Columbus’s expedition of discovery “found” the Caribbean islands within a “New World” that lacked the divine providence, Christian ethos, and mercantilism of early modern Europe. The discovery of the Caribbean islands and the systematic extermination and expulsion of its indigenous peoples violently created atabula rasawhere history, subjects, and culture were not yet established but there to be made. As a result, the...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 145-152)
    (pp. 153-164)
  15. Index
    (pp. 165-168)