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A World among These Islands

A World among These Islands: Essays on Literature, Race, and National Identity in Antillean America

Roberto Márquez
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 280
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    A World among These Islands
    Book Description:

    Caribbean literature and culture have all too often been viewed in fragmented terms, without attention to the broader commonalities of the region. In this collection of essays written over many years, Roberto Márquez offers a more encompassing vision, one that respects the individual traditions of particular locales, languages, and cultures but also sees the larger themes that bind the area's literary heritage and history. Márquez begins by making the case for a genuinely Caribbean literary criticism, one that moves beyond the colonial history of fragmentation and isolation and the critical insularity of more conventional approaches. His panCaribbean perspective provides a point of departure for the scrutiny of the evolving dramas of race, nationality, nationbuilding, and cultural articulation in the region. Márquez then focuses specifically on Puerto Rico—its literary and socio—historical experience, the particularities of its "New Creole" incarnations, and the effects of waves of migration to the United States. In the final section of the book, he discusses writers and cultural figures from the other Spanish, Anglophone, and Francophone territories and the ways in which they engage or reflect the defining themes of literature, race, and national identity in Antillean America.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-029-1
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Foundational site and crucible of the European colonial (and later United States neocolonial) enterprise in the Americas, the Caribbean is also the world pioneering locale of that complex process of transnational globalization and “modernity” that was there first set in motion. It was in this archipelago of isles (rimlands, enclaves, and territories)¹ coupled and swung between our hemisphere’s two continents that the worldwide reach and integration of the planet’s once mutually isolated spheres had its most decisive early modern birthing. The unaccustomed intimacy, assorted content, and commingling of different geographies, peoples, economies, cultures, intrasocietal conflicts and the brusque convergence of...

  5. I. Seeing the Caribbean Whole

    • Beyond a Critical Insularity
      (pp. 13-26)

      Speaking before a group of translators, literary critics, and teachers of literature gathered at a meeting of the Comparative Literature Association, some while ago now, and to all appearances the only Caribbeanist among this distinguished assembly, I took occasion to address what strikes me still as the obligation more fully to engage the Antillean archipelago as a single cohesive totality, our need of a conceptual outlook and critical vision which, doing no violence to any of its sub-regional units or individual insular particularities, will nonetheless allow us analytically to approach the Caribbean, its literature and culture, as the locus and...

    • Raza, racismo, e historia: “Are All My Bones from There?”
      (pp. 27-48)

      It must now surely be apparent to all at the start of a new millennium that the strategies of artful dodging and denial which all too often tend still to meet provocative questions about race, racism, and history such as that lyrically posed by Nicolás Guillén in the early 1950s are now even more inadequate and untenable than they have always been. Certainly the accelerating surge of consciousness among Afro-Latino Americans themselves—not to mention, among several other factors, the quantum growth of scholarly attention to and increasing general interest in these matters since the sixties—makes such evasions more...

    • Nationalism, Nation, and Ideology: Trends in the Emergence of a Caribbean Literature
      (pp. 49-100)

      Reading Derek Walcott’s (Saint Lucia, 1930) poetic meditation on the impact and legacy of the Enterprise of the Indies, “Origins,” one is struck by the holistic sweep of a single line: “Lost animist, I rechristened trees.”¹ Resonant with multiple reference, it synthesizes as it points to a critical dimension in the historical and cultural evolution of the Caribbean: the continuous process of inventive and creatively adaptive Creolization that, in spite of “those who conceive[d] of white cities in a raindrop / and the annihilation of races in the prism of the dew,”² ultimately gives the archipelago its very distinct personality,...

    • Seeing Fragments/Whole
      (pp. 101-112)

      Not so very long ago Caribbean literature and literary criticism, inclusively considered, looked a fractured, balkanized, “orbitally” segmented affair. In keeping with what historian Franklin Knight aptly describes as the “fragmented nationalism” evident in the archipelago’s diversity of political arrangements, states, territories, regional subdivisions and cultural zones, critical study of the area’s literary output was (and all too often remains still) typically partitioned in an eclectic array of isolated, mutually self-insulated linguistic blocs, cultural enclaves, and literary exclusives. Routinely more than just geographically positioned—analytically, discursively, and categorically—on the insular pivot and seaboard rims of the continental Americas, on...

  6. II. Notes of a ’Nother Rican

    • Sojourners, Settlers, Castaways, and Creators: Of Puerto Rico Past and Puerto Ricans Present
      (pp. 115-136)

      The history of Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans in the Post-Indigenous Era, the peculiar character of their association with Europe and with what, with provocative imprecision, the nineteenth-century Cuban writer José Martí liked to call “the Other, Anglo-Saxon America,” properly begins with the second, 1493, voyage of Christopher Columbus. The first of his expeditions actually conceived and organized as a full-fledged colonizing mission, it was, perhaps even more than the Admiral’s historic landfall of the year before, a signal harbinger of the nature and content of things to come.

      That armada of seventeen ships bound, with eager cupidity, for the...

    • One Boricua’s Baldwin
      (pp. 137-158)

      When the word finally came, it was already dimly half-expected. He had been ill and, the bulletins ofradio bemba(word of mouth) had it, the illness was serious, quite possibly life-threatening, nothing to be toyed with. Reports from Amherst—where until recently we had each found a relatively compatible, putatively temporary home—had lately turned elliptically intimate, tellingly vague: at once discreetly circumspect and cautiously allusive. The implications of only half-informed rumor and the details offered by more reliable sources had become gradually almost indistinguishable from one another. Those of us among that vast constellation of his many admirers,...

    • Boricuas, Jíbaras, and Jibaristas: Of Memory, Memoir, and Mimicry
      (pp. 159-166)

      Appearing only a year after its English-language original and in the author’s own Boricua “translation,” the Spanish-language version of Esmeralda Santiago’sWhen I Was Puerto Ricanincludes a brief foreword, absent from the American first edition. The new preface explicitly articulates the specific cultural context, process of genesis, and narrative intent of her elegant autobiographical memoir. It specifically situates this chronicle of a child’s uprooting from her rural Puerto Rican beginnings, the adaptations, “seasonings,” and maturation in relatively more urban insular settings that end with eventual (im)migration to the United States; and the subsequent Creolization, ultimate success, and hunger of...

  7. III. Occasions, Views, and Reviews

    • “Soul of a Continent”
      (pp. 169-179)

      Writing in 1888 from his exile of more than seven years in New York, the intellectual architect and political organizer of Cuban independence, José Martí, then only thirty-five years old, privately disclosed the broad outlines of an enterprise to which his omnivorous attention was consistently and ineluctably drawn. “Do you know that, after eighteen years of thinking about it,” he confided to his friend and colleague, the Uruguayan diplomat Enrique Estrázulas:

      I have lately been turning over the idea of publishing here a journal,El mes,or some such, entirely written by me with each issue so complete in itself...

    • A Poet’s Century
      (pp. 180-188)

      The year 2002 marks the centennial anniversary of the birth of Cuba’s internationally acclaimed national poet Nicolás Guillén. Born in the provincial city of Camaguey on July 10, 1902, Guillén was the son of a silversmith turned journalist and newspaper editor who, as a member of the island’s black middle class, became a leader in the local branch of the National Liberal Party. His father’s assassination by conservative government troops during the 1917 uprising against the presidency of Mario García Menocal, popularly known as “La Chambelona,” deprived the son “of his friend and teacher, of his firmest spiritual support.” With...

    • The Stoic and the Sisyphean: John Hearne and the Angel of History
      (pp. 189-227)

      Undoubtedly one of the most accomplished, articulate, and distinguished of contemporary writers from the Caribbean, John Hearne is also, after V. S. Naipaul, quite possibly the most controversial and enigmatic. Though he is less internationally celebrated than his Trinidadian colleague, Hearne’s fiction has, nonetheless, been an object of the most intense and diverse commentary. Critical response to his several novels, unanimous in its recognition of his superb craftsmanship and the artistic effectiveness of his gift for description, is dramatically divided in its appraisal of their final implications, the worldview they bear witness to, and, inevitably, the place they ultimately occupy...

    • Grenada: History, Neocolonialism, and Culture in the Contemporary Caribbean
      (pp. 228-242)

      Seen in the context of a long progression of imperious intrusions into the archipelago by external metropolitan powers and empire-builders, the invasion of Grenada on October 25, 1983, by a final total of approximately 6,000 U.S. Marines, Rangers, and paratroopers supported by heavy artillery, tanks, and the most sophisticated weaponry gives one a rather bluntly palpable appreciation for the degree to which issues of culture, cultural definition, and development can be intimately related to the particulars of social and political history. Continuous with a virtual tradition of American interventions in the region, it at the same time signaled something of...

    • El Señor Presidente
      (pp. 243-246)

      Dominican President Joaquín Balaguer has, surely, never been in any serious danger of being mistaken for a man of even moderately liberal ideology or opinions. Octogenarian dean of the most pusillanimously colonial and racially pretentious wing of the Dominican Right, Balaguer has devoted more than half a century to the rationalization and defense of its most jejune orthodoxies and clichés.

      His recent bookLa isla al revés: Haiti y el destino dominicano(The Island Turned on Its Head: Haiti and Dominican Destiny, Santo Domingo: Editora Corripio, 1989) is a self-contradictory pastiche of the would-be aristocracy’s most shopworn and flatulent bromides....

    • “The Pirate Ambush of Remorse”
      (pp. 247-252)

      Between 1929 and the mid-fifties the Caribbean saw a succession of historic, transitional, sociopolitical, and cultural realignments. Eclipsed by the vigorously imperial presence of the United States after 1898, European hegemony in the region was decisively, if not absolutely, superseded by a neocolonial Pax Americana. Seigniorial economies controlled by conservative local agricultural oligarchies, whose superannuated techniques and outmoded systems of production put them at a comparative disadvantage, were effectively captured, secured, reorganized, and reoriented by dollar diplomats, “modernizing” capitalists, and industrialists from abroad. The political monopoly of the old plantocracies was also successfully undone by a temporary, uneasy alliance between...

  8. Index
    (pp. 253-264)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 265-265)