Caribbean Literature and the Public Sphere

Caribbean Literature and the Public Sphere: From the Plantation to the Postcolonial

Raphael Dalleo
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Caribbean Literature and the Public Sphere
    Book Description:

    Bringing together the most exciting recent archival work in anglophone, francophone, and hispanophone Caribbean studies, Raphael Dalleo constructs a new literary history of the region that is both comprehensive and innovative. He examines how changes in political, economic, and social structures have produced different sets of possibilities for writers to imagine their relationship to the institutions of the public sphere. In the process, he provides a new context for rereading such major writers as Mary Seacole, José Martí, Jacques Roumain, Claude McKay, Marie Chauvet, and George Lamming, while also drawing lesser-known figures into the story. Dalleo's comparative approach will be important to Caribbeanists from all of the region's linguistic traditions, and his book contributes even more broadly to debates in Latin American and postcolonial studies about postmodernity and globalization.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3202-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xvi)
  4. Introduction: Periodizing the Public Sphere
    (pp. 1-18)

    The Caribbean poses multiple obstacles for literary history. Literary historians cannot seek the traditional unity of the nation in a region comprised of more than a dozen national units; language provides no more stable a ground, with literature from the Caribbean appearing in at least four imperial languages and a number of local languages. Political histories of the region vary from a nation independent since 1804 (Haiti) to a number of islands still not independent (Puerto Rico, Martinique, and Curaçao, among others). If literary history seeks either to make comparisons or to periodize, then, is either possible in the Caribbean...

  5. Part One: The Rise of the Caribbean Literary Public Sphere, 1804 to 1886

    • 1 The Abolitionist Public Sphere and the Republic of the Lettered
      (pp. 21-43)

      Writing from the period of plantation slavery displays a particular relationship to the public sphere. Within the Caribbean, the planter class monopoly on written discourse meant literature allowed to circulate locally was almost uniformly aligned with power. Oppositional forms of writing did emerge and were central to abolitionism, which sought to bring about emancipation by persuading a public of the evils of slavery. But in the hierarchical literary field of plantation slavery, antislavery articulation required European patronage, and the public targeted by abolitionist writing was European, as appeals to the local planter class to abolish slavery appeared futile and mobilizing...

    • 2 The Public Sphere Unbound: Michel Maxwell Philip, El laúd del desterrado, and Mary Seacole
      (pp. 44-66)

      By the 1850s, slavery had formally ended in the Englishand French-speaking Caribbean—in part because of the successes of the abolition movement in Europe but also because of increased physical resistance by enslaved people within the region—and abolitionism was no longer the avenue into a European public sphere it had once been. Chapter 1 discussed how the abolitionist movement of the early nineteenth century located its public sphere in the European metropolis even as most of the energies of a Caribbean counterpublic remained outside of print. With the end of slavery bringing increases in literacy and access to publication...

  6. Part Two: Modern Colonialism and the Anticolonial Public Sphere, 1886 to 1959

    • 3 The Intellectual and the Man of Action: Resolving Literary Anxiety in the Work of José Martí, Stephen Cobham, and Jacques Roumain
      (pp. 69-95)

      Modern colonialism , through its attempts to remove local power from the Caribbean, enabled writers throughout the region to see themselves speaking for a national public as well as part of a counterpublic opposed to power. The modern colonial system’s attempts to remove power from the region produced a vocal and influential Caribbean intellectual class aligned with the social movements of anticolonialism. The existence of these social movements made it possible for Caribbean writers to imagine mobilizing a local public to give their literary projects the political significance that would allow them to speak with authority. These anticolonial sentiments open...

    • 4 The Ideology of the Literary: Claude McKay’s Banana Bottom and the Little Magazines of the 1940s
      (pp. 96-122)

      The previous chapter discussed how writers most frequently identified with anticolonialism, such as José Martí and Jacques Roumain, constructed a discursive project that overcame anxiety about writing as a private activity through emphasis on masculine action. Along with Martí and Roumain, other important figures from the modern colonial period such as C. L. R. James, Roger Mais, V. S. Reid, Jacques Stephen Alexis, Frantz Fanon, Pedro Mir, and Jesús Colón deployed this ideal of the writer as man of action as a way to insist on the public purchase of their literary endeavors.¹ These writers became embodiments of anticolonial writing...

  7. Part Three: Postcoloniality and the Crisis of the Literary Public Sphere, 1959 to 1983

    • 5 The Expulsion from the Public Sphere: The Novels of Marie Chauvet
      (pp. 125-151)

      During the modern colonial period , writers like José Martí and Claude McKay, as well as journal editors like Frank Collymore, Aimé Césaire, and Suzanne Césaire, made the case for the literary as a crucial quality in governing the nation. But the successes and failures of the region’s anticolonial struggles left nationalist intellectuals in a difficult new position during the decolonizing years as they could no longer unify their aspirations to speak for both a public and a counterpublic. This chapter begins the second half ofCaribbean Literature and the Public Sphere, which examines the effects that the crisis of...

    • 6 Anticolonial Authority and the Postcolonial Occasion for Speaking: George Lamming and Martin Carter
      (pp. 152-174)

      The dismantling of the colonial system and the emerging dominance of the postcolonial in the decades following World War II mark a major passage in Caribbean literary history. Chapter 5 described the dangers facing literary intellectuals as their alignment with a counterpublic became identified as incompatible with national consolidation during the 1950s and 1960s. At the same time, many of the writers associated with anticolonial nationalism began to question their own participation in the bourgeois public sphere they had helped to establish. Chapters 7 and 8 look at howtestimonioand Caribbean cultural studies emerge from this rethinking. This chapter...

    • 7 The Testimonial Impulse: Miguel Barnet and the Sistren Theatre Collective
      (pp. 175-198)

      By the late 1960s and early 1970s , a new configuration of the Caribbean public sphere was beginning to be consolidated, and the literary field found itself being redefined. Chapters 7 and 8 explore two responses by Caribbean writers—the testimonial impulse and the turn to popular culture—that show how new relationships between writer and public structure this postcolonial space. Alison Donnell begins her discussion of “critical moments in anglophone literary history” with what Laurence Breiner has referred to as the “Savacoudebate,” the heated exchange that began in reviews of the anthology of new writing presented in the...

    • 8 Cultural Studies and the Commodified Public: Luis Rafael Sánchez’s La guaracha del Macho Camacho and Earl Lovelace’s The Dragon Can’t Dance
      (pp. 199-224)

      Testimonio attempts to keep alive the anticolonial ideal of the intellectual as representing the public while remaining engaged in counterpublic critique in the face of the postcolonial crisis of that model. A prominent strain of postcolonial Caribbean literary criticism mirrors this tactic by turning toward popular cultural, especially music, as a more authentic way of giving voice to the nation than the high culture of the modern colonial period. The first part of this chapter discusses that trend in the work of scholars such as Gordon Rohlehr, Juan Flores, Carolyn Cooper, Lisa Sánchez González, and Juan Otero Garabís, literary critics...

  8. Conclusion: The Postcolonial Public Sphere
    (pp. 225-240)

    Caribbean Literature and The Public Sphere has explored three periods in Caribbean literary history. Chapters 1 and 2 looked at the decline of plantation slavery and rise of modern colonialism from 1804 to 1886; the key dates in this long regional passage go from Haitian independence and the British abolition of the transatlantic slave trade through the imposition of the Crown Colony system up to the end of slavery in Cuba. Chapters 3 and 4 examined how anticolonial writing developed as a response to the codification of modern colonialism, especially in the face of U.S. imperial involvement in the region...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 241-268)
  10. Works Cited
    (pp. 269-288)
  11. Index
    (pp. 289-296)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 297-299)