Creolizing the canon: engagements with legacy and relation in contemporary postcolonial Caribbean writing

Burns, Lorna M. (2007) Creolizing the canon: engagements with legacy and relation in contemporary postcolonial Caribbean writing. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis sets out to investigate the ways in which Caribbean authors have responded to the canonical texts of the coloniser, and how they have rewritten certain genres, modes and the ideological biases that inform them. In Chapter One, the continuing presence of representations of the Caribbean as paradise or Eden – evident, I suggest in my Introduction, in the first works of Caribbean literature, such as James Grainger’s The Sugar-Cane (1764), and later in J. E. C. McFarlane’s ‘My Country’ (1929), Tom Redcam’s ‘My Beautiful Home’ (1929), H. S. Bunbury’s ‘The Spell of the Tropics’ (1929) – is revised in the works of Una Marson, Alejo Carpentier, Aimé Césaire, Édouard Glissant, Gisèle Pineau, and Shani Mootoo; while the more direct canonical rewritings of Maryse Condé and Derek Walcott are the subject of Chapter Four.

Behind these readings of the contemporary Caribbean canon lies a fundamental question: what makes these engagements with legacy a postcolonial, rather than counter-colonial, response? In turn, through a critical reading of Peter Hallward’s Absolutely Postcolonial (2001) in Chapter Two, I argue that the postcolonial may be defined as that which is specific to various colonial legacies and histories, but not specified by them. Chapter Four elaborates this model, drawing on Glissant’s The Fourth Century (1997) and David Dabydeen’s ‘Turner’ (1994).

Creolization is a cultural, linguistic, ontological, and literary term that focuses on the emergence of a creolized culture/expression/identity/text from the meeting and synthesis of the informing elements. Through the writings of creolization’s foremost theorist, Édouard Glissant, I stress that what results from this form of relation is not a sum of its parts, but a wholly new and original existent. In other words, the process of creolization is distinguished by its ability to affect singular forms that remain specific to the elements which engender it – the social, historical, and geographical contexts elements which engender it – the social, historical, and geographical contexts specific to the site of its articulation – but which, nevertheless, exceeds the limitations of the ‘original’ components. This fundamental contention is developed through my analysis of Glissant’s theoretical expositions, Caribbean Discourse (1981), discussed in Chapter One, and Poetics of Relation (1990) outlined in Chapter Two alongside Glissant’s poetry and the contributions of Peter Hallward and Derek Attridge.

Importantly, the distinct model of creolization that emerges at the end of Chapter Two as a process of relation that generates new forms, resonates with the poetics of another celebrated Caribbean author and theorist: Wilson Harris. It is through Harris’s essays and novels such as Jonestown (1996), The Mask of the Beggar (2004), and The Ghost of Memory (2006) that the significance of my reading of creolization to the Caribbean canon becomes clear.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PL Languages and literatures of Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceania
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Kolocotroni, Dr. Vassiliki
Date of Award: 2007
Depositing User: Geraldine Coyle
Unique ID: glathesis:2007-1090
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 31 Aug 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:33

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