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Migrant Modernism

Migrant Modernism: Postwar London and the West Indian Novel

J. Dillon Brown
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Migrant Modernism
    Book Description:

    InMigrant Modernism,J. Dillon Brown examines the intersection between British literary modernism and the foundational West Indian novels that emerged in London after World War II. By emphasizing the location in which anglophone Caribbean writers such as George Lamming, V. S. Naipaul, and Samuel Selvon produced and published their work, Brown reveals a dynamic convergence between modernism and postcolonial literature that has often been ignored. Modernist techniques not only provided a way for these writers to mark their difference from the aggressively English, literalist aesthetic that dominated postwar literature in London but also served as a self-critical medium through which to treat themes of nationalism, cultural inheritance, and identity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3395-5
    Subjects: 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. 1-13)

    At first glance, the central contention of this book might seem uncomplicated: that the Windrush novelists, West Indians living and publishing in London after World War II, emerged into prominence via an overt affiliation with literary modernism.¹ Indeed, as this book hopes to show in the pages that follow, when these influential Anglophone Caribbean novels are read within the historical and geographical context of their production, their affiliation with modernism becomes not simply evident but indispensable to an understanding of their complex literary-political aims. However straightforward it appears, though, such an assertion quickly becomes entangled in a constellation of literary-critical...

  5. 1 At the Scene of the Time: Postwar London
    (pp. 14-41)

    Early in his 1960 volume of essays,The Pleasures of Exile, George Lamming fixes his sharply analytical eye on “an English critic, Mr. Kingsley Amis, discussing West Indian novelists in theSpectator” (28). The discussion in question, Amis’s 1958 “Fresh Winds from the West,” treats eight recently released books by Caribbean authors and stands as a testament to the high visibility of Windrush writing on the British cultural scene at the time. However, Lamming is not particularly pleased by the type of attention represented by Amis’s article, which he dismisses as ill considered and virtually bereft of literary discernment. Lamming’s...

  6. 2 “Child of Ferment”: Edgar Mittelholzer’s Contrary Tradition
    (pp. 42-72)

    Guyanese author Edgar Mittelholzer is a largely overlooked figure in the contemporary annals of Anglophone Caribbean literature. Despite the fact that during his life he was identified as “the doyen of the new school of West Indian writers” (Rickards, “Tribute,” 98) and considered to be foremost among West Indian novelists (Amis, “Fresh Winds from the West,” 565), his literary output is only rarely read or seriously considered today. While he is frequently mentioned, widely known, and often discussed in general terms as an important novelist within Caribbean literature, the amount of focused engagement with his work—let alone the availability...

  7. 3 Engaging the Reader: The Difficulties of George Lamming
    (pp. 73-102)

    Like Mittelholzer, the Barbadian author George Lamming was readily received in postwar literary London as an experimental “high-art” writer. In contrast to Mittelholzer’s eclectic habits of innovation tout court, however, Lamming’s experimentation was consistently understood as a recognizable species of self-consciously difficult writing in the tradition of Faulkner, Joyce, and Woolf. In aCaribbean Voicesprogram dedicated exclusively to Lamming’s work, broadcast on 4 January 1948, Henry Swanzy’s introductory remarks capture this sense of Lamming’s indecipherability, asserting that in his poems “one finds a strange, oblique, violent, passionate emotion, which I feel, somehow, may prove of importance to the Caribbean”...

  8. 4 A Commoner Cosmopolitanism: Sam Selvon’s Literary Forms
    (pp. 103-133)

    Although both Mittelholzer and Lamming were readily associated with a serious, high intellectual tradition of experimental writing, the work of Samuel Selvon (who famously traveled to Britain in 1950 on the same boat as Lamming) is often understood in much different terms. Noted especially for its skillful use of creole language forms and its comedic vivacity, Selvon’s writing has conventionally been read as colorful, intuitive, light-hearted reportage, rather than an artful product of thoughtful literary construction—a perception that remains active in present-day Caribbean criticism. Interestingly, it is Lamming himself who serves as an authoritative source for the idea of...

  9. 5 The Lyrical Enchantments of Roger Mais
    (pp. 134-168)

    Jamaican novelist Roger Mais, although he arrived in London not long after Lamming, Mittelholzer, and Selvon, took a rather different path toward metropolitan literary success. Comparatively isolated from the eastern Caribbean cultural scene, and evidently disliked by Cedric and Gladys Lindo, the Jamaica-based editorial gatekeepers forCaribbean Voices, Mais was already well established as a journalist, writer, painter, dramatist, and cultural commentator on his home island before he left for Britain.¹ With two subscription-based short story collections—Face, and Other Stories, along withAnd Most of All Man—under his belt and a long list of stories, poems, and articles...

  10. Coda: Kamau Brathwaite, Wilson Harris, and V. S. Naipaul’s Caribbean Voice
    (pp. 169-184)

    The year 1962 can be seen as something of a watershed for the West Indian presence, both literary and actual, in Britain. Most important, the passage of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1962 decisively restricted the entry of new migrants from the entire ex-empire. Though the flow of immigrants did not dry up immediately—mainly due to the continued ability of spouses and children to join migrants already resident in Britain—the act marks a crucial change in both the perception and the legal status of the West Indian population in Britain. Moreover, the year also marked the dissolution of...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 185-214)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 215-234)
  13. Index
    (pp. 235-246)