Disturbers of the Peace

Disturbers of the Peace: Representations of Madness in Anglophone Caribbean Literature

Kelly Baker Josephs
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Disturbers of the Peace
    Book Description:

    Exploring the prevalence of madness in Caribbean texts written in English in the mid-twentieth century, Kelly Baker Josephs focuses on celebrated writers such as Jean Rhys, V. S. Naipaul, and Derek Walcott as well as on understudied writers such as Sylvia Wynter and Erna Brodber. Because mad figures appear frequently in Caribbean literature from French, Spanish, and English traditions-in roles ranging from bit parts to first-person narrators-the author regards madness as a part of the West Indian literary aesthetic. The relatively condensed decolonization of the anglophone islands during the 1960s and 1970s, she argues, makes literature written in English during this time especially rich for an examination of the function of madness in literary critiques of colonialism and in the Caribbean project of nation-making.

    In drawing connections between madness and literature, gender, and religion, this book speaks not only to the field of Caribbean studies but also to colonial and postcolonial literature in general. The volume closes with a study of twenty-first-century literature of the Caribbean diaspora, demonstrating that Caribbean writers still turn to representations of madness to depict their changing worlds.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3507-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction: Madness, Caribbeanness, and the Process of Nation Building
    (pp. 1-22)

    Mad mad, mad mad mad, mad mad… Paul Keens-Douglas’s rhythmic repetition illustrates both the complexity and the consistency with which literary artists appropriate madness to represent Caribbean life. The poem reveals the ambiguity of the termmadas each repetition confuses rather than enlightens the reader.¹ The poet leaves his audience to ask not only why the speaker was mad but also what he means bymad. Ismadthe same asmad madandmad mad mad? By the end of the piece the reader can infer that the speaker was temporarily insane during the bacchanal of carnival...

  5. 1 Manias and Messiahs: Man-man and the Madness of Miguel Street
    (pp. 23-44)

    In a reverse of the traditional scholarship route, in 1960 V. S. Naipaul returned to Trinidad from England on a three-month government-sponsored scholarship. The stipulated three months stretched beyond a year as Naipaul, at the suggestion of then premier Eric Williams, undertook the project of a book-length essay on the Caribbean. The resulting publication,The Middle Passage, chronicles Naipaul’s visits to five Caribbean countries: Trinidad, British Guiana, Surinam, Martinique, and Jamaica. It begins, however, with a recounting of his voyage (via ship) from England to Trinidad, and some of the narrative in the first chapter concerns the madmen on board....

  6. 2 The Necessity for Madness: Negotiating Nation in Sylvia Wynter’s The Hills of Hebron
    (pp. 45-68)

    InMiguel Street, V. S. Naipaul’s use of sketches affords him the opportunity to provide a multifaceted view of Trinidad on the brink of independence. Yet while several voices are represented, the use of the unnamed narrator limits access to the thoughts and motivations of the characters. Readers are restricted by the narrator’s thoughts and judgments, and although these are mitigated by the addition of hindsight, by Hat’s voice, and by the snippets of calypso, the text still provides only the narrator’s point of view and what he is privy to through conversations with others. In contrast, Sylvia Wynter employs...

  7. 3 “Fighting Mad”: Between Sides and Stories in Wide Sargasso Sea
    (pp. 69-92)

    In a 1958 letter to actress and friend Selma Vaz Dias, Jean Rhys detailed her desire to rewrite the story of the “Creole lunatic” inJane Eyre. Despite the challenge, she delared herself firm in rectifying what she saw as the unfairness of Charlotte Brontë’s representation of the first Mrs. Rochester and related the difficulties of working with the original text. Although Rhys had described the project to Vaz Dias in previous letters—Vaz Dias expected a script form of the novel for performance—this letter provides more details about Rhys’s experimentation with various methods of representing her heroine’s story....

  8. 4 Shared Dreams and Collective Delirium in Derek Walcott’s Dream on Monkey Mountain
    (pp. 93-118)

    In 1967, just prior to the play’s first production, Derek Walcott describedDream on Monkey Mountainas “an attempt to cohere various elements in West Indian folklore, but … also a fantasy based on the hallucination of an old woodcutter who has a vision of returning to Africa.”¹ This first production occurred in Canada, but Walcott’s utilization of folklore grounds the play in the Caribbean without limiting it to stereotype; he avoids fruitless nostalgia by layering the “various elements” of folklore within the experimental dreamwork of the play. If, as Édouard Glissant writes, “experimentation is for us [in the Caribbean]...

  9. 5 “Claims to Social Identity”: Madness and Subject Formation in Jane and Louisa Will Soon Come Home
    (pp. 119-142)

    In a manner similar to Jean Rhys’s brief last section ofWide Sargasso Sea, Erna Brodber’sJane and Louisa Will Soon Come Homerepresents madness from a tangled first-person perspective. It seeks to speak from the inside, rather than to merely represent from a distance, the madness of a dissociated Jamaican woman. The resulting text is a densely layered account of the colonial mentality still evident in Jamaican society at least up to 1980, whenJane and Louisawas published. Brodber’s text also emphasizes the difficulty of representing madness within standard generic divisions—as manifested in Rhys’s novel and Derek...

  10. Epilogue: Madness and Migration in the New Millennium
    (pp. 143-164)

    In ending, I return to where I began, with Paul Keens-Douglas’s “Jus’ Like Dat.” But here I turn to the closing stanza of the poem, which repeats the beginning of the opening stanza but takes the speaker and his audience in a new direction. This repetition of words, phrases, and in this case the opening lines of the poem primarily contributes to the performative aspect of the poem, but it also makes and remakes the meaning of the speaker’s madness. He has been celebrating carnival, he has lost track of time, and now suddenly—“Jus’ like dat”—it is time...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 165-186)
  12. Index
    (pp. 187-192)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 193-193)