Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 December 2020
My essay utilizes a comparative interdisciplinary approach to read William Beckford’s A Descriptive Account of the Island of Jamaica (1790) alongside paintings and prints of his Jamaican estates by George Robertson. The essay considers how Caribbean people see their landscape, but more crucially how that seeing has been shaped by visual and scribal pre-texts. As Helen Tiffin argues, Caribbean people’s relation to their landscape is linked ‘with histories of transplantation, slavery and colonialism’ but also with our assimilation of ‘imported European traditions of land and landscape perception and representation’. How we see the Caribbean landscape now is largely determined by earlier ways of seeing which constructed tropical colonies. With Krista Thompson and Jill Casid, I argue that ‘imperial picturesque landscaping aesthetics’ in Beckford’s text are reinforced by the images, to naturalize colonial transplantation and mask the materialist matrix of the plantation economy by imposing a screen of picturesque composition.
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