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Pathologies of Paradise

Pathologies of Paradise: Caribbean Detours

Supriya M. Nair
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Pathologies of Paradise
    Book Description:

    Pathologies of Paradisepresents the rich complexity of anglophone Caribbean literature from pluralistic perspectives that contest the reduction of the region to Edenic or infernal stereotypes. But rather than reiterate the familiar critiques of these stereotypes, Supriya Nair draws on the trope of the detour to plumb the depths of anti-paradise discourse, showing how the Caribbean has survived its history of colonization and slavery. In her reading of authors such as Jamaica Kincaid, Michelle Cliff, V. S. Naipaul, Zadie Smith, Junot Díaz, and Pauline Melville, among others, she examines dominant symbols and events that shape the literature and history of postslavery and postcolonial societies: the garden and empire, individual and national trauma, murder and massacre, contagion and healing, grotesque humor and the carnivalesque. In ranging across multiple contexts, generations, and genres, the book maps a syncretic and flexible approach to Caribbean literature that demonstrates the supple literary cartographies of New World identities.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3519-5
    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. 1-22)

    This book was conceived in the serendipitous moments when teaching and research fuse in a lightening flash, illuminating thorny debates about the literary archaeology of the Caribbean and the discursive regimes by which it is enunciated in contemporary anglophone literature. My readings of the texts under discussion are haunted by classroom questions about the way the literature helps “articulate the past historically.”¹ In one iteration of a frequently taught course on anglophone Caribbean literature, we read Edwidge Danticat’s short story cycleKrik? Krak!during the final week of class. One student who found the stories particularly wrenching wondered aloud if...

  5. 1 The Empire and the Garden: Exhuming Bones, Inscribing Genealogies
    (pp. 23-48)

    The seeds of European modernity and its countercultures were sown and reaped not only in Europe and the Old World tropical colonies, but also in the Americas.¹ A new world of Western genesis and a global phase of modernity instituted through European migration to the Caribbean resulted in native genocide or dispossession, transatlantic slavery, and indentured servitude for other populations, leading writers from the region to challenge Edenic narratives of colonialism and settlement in the Americas with counter-narratives of “Caribbean geneses.” In their accounts, an anti-Adamic impulse rejecting certain acts of naming coexists with Derek Walcott’s project of calling upon...

  6. 2 Toxic Domesticity, Curative Kinship: Individual and National Trauma in Domestic Fiction
    (pp. 49-76)

    Emerging from historical and, in many cases, continuing contexts of migration, diaspora, and exile, anglophone Caribbean literature depicts a longing for the nostalgic ambiance of home and its material manifestation, a house, but generates an equally intense dystopia in its visions of domesticity. Home (and by inference the house) is a byzantine term, conjuring up a range of potent, if contradictory, meanings. In the middle-class, separate-spheres ideology of Victorian England, it represented the hallowed hearth of ladylike influence, as opposed to the power of the public sphere, properly the male/main domain. The patriarchal Indian edifice of the inner-outer worlds, “ghar...

  7. 3 “Disasters in the Sun”: Crime and Carnival
    (pp. 77-111)

    One of the most striking aspects of representations of the Caribbean is its schizophrenic quality, particularly in the jarring contrast its circulation as a carefree paradise offers to the history of violence and terror depicted in the literature. This is not to suggest that the converse is impossible: that tourists are unaware of threat and danger in the contemporary Caribbean and that anglophone Caribbean literature is devoid of carnivalesque ribaldry, trickster humor, and irrepressiblejouissance. My dwelling here on the bipolar contrast in representation is not intended to reinforce a stereotype either of untroubled holiday carousing or of irreversible deviance...

  8. 4 Magic, Science, Fantasy, and Religion
    (pp. 112-142)

    Scientific and technological advancements are often implacably invoked to distinguish the first from the third world, white Euro-American populations from nonwhite others, the advanced “culture” of western(ized) societies from the backward “nature” of non-Western peoples. Within each of these categories as well there are various levels of hierarchy between science and the humanities, technology and the arts, reason and imagination; between the rational views of the urban industrialized elites and the irrational superstitions of the rural folk. It goes without saying that vast differences in industrial prowess, information technology, and scientific knowledge are correspondingly tied to significant inequalities in individual...

  9. 5 Medusa’s Laugh: Carnivalesque Comedy and the Caribbean Grotesque
    (pp. 143-174)

    Revolution is a serious business. This may be why one does not automatically reach for anti-slavery, anticolonial, and postcolonial literature when in the mood for a hearty laugh. Even if the outcome is not always revolutionary, the suffering of those concerned and their bitter struggle for full human status and civil rights constitute significant themes of these literatures, topics hardly conducive to unrestrained merriment. Aside from the unsettling insurgency of violent revolution, the troubled relationship between laughter and power struggle offers another reason for the uncommonness of postcolonial humor as a topic. The safety-valve theory suggests that laughter dispels or...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 175-182)

    In a short story with the heavily freighted title “There Are a Lot of Ways to Die,” Neil Bissoondath, like his uncles V. S. and Shiva Naipaul and many other writers, assaults the plastic image of the Caribbean. The central character, Joseph Heaven, returns from Toronto in the fond hopes of reconnecting with his native Eden, but following the formula of most return plots, he faces demoralizing failure. He comes across a travel poster in a restaurant that “showed an interminable stretch of bleached beach overhung with languid coconut-tree branches. Large, cursive letters read: Welcome to the Sunny Caribbean. The...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 183-214)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 215-228)
  13. Index
    (pp. 229-236)