Miller, Andrew Kei
Jamaica to the world: a study of Jamaican (and West Indian) epistolary practices.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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The Caribbean islands have been distinguished by mass migratory patterns and diasporic communities that have moved into and out of the region; as a consequence, the genre of the letter has been an important one to the culture and has provided a template for many creative works.
This dissertation is the first major study on West Indian epistolary practices: personal letters, emails, verse epistles, epistolary novels, letters to editors, etc. It focuses on a contemporary period – from the 1930s to the present, and on examples that have come out of Jamaica. The dissertation offers both close-readings on a range of epistolary texts and theoretical frameworks in which to consider them and some of the ways in which Caribbean people have been addressing themselves to each other, and to the wider world.
My first chapter looks at the non-fictional letters of Sir Alexander Bustamante and Sir Vidia Naipaul. It reflects on the ways in which the public personas of these two men had been created and manipulated through their public and private letters.
My second chapter tries to expand a critical project which has been satisfied to simply place contemporary epistolary fiction within an eighteenth century genealogy. I propose another conversation which understands recent examples of West Indian epistolary fiction within their contemporary cultures.
My third chapter looks at examples of Jamaican verse epistles and considers how three poets – Lorna Goodison, James Berry and Louise Bennett – have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to create an epistolary voice that is both literary and oral.
My fourth chapter looks at the popular Jamaican newspaper advice column, Dear Pastor. It considers the ways in which evangelical Christianity has impacted on the construction of a West Indian epistolary voice and consequently the shape of a West Indian public sphere.
My final chapter considers how technology has changed epistolography; specifically how the email, Facebook messages, and tweets have both transformed and preserved the letter. I end with a presentation of a personal corpus of emails titled The Cold Onion Chronicles with some reflections on remediation of epistolary forms.
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