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When the 1920s began, the field called ‘Caribbean literature’ was virtually unimagined. Within a few decades, writers from the Caribbean were achieving worldwide recognition, and a large body of scholarship, criticism, and theory debating the nature and contours of the literature had emerged. This volume tells the story of the rapid ascent from the isolated literary efforts of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries described in Volume 1, towards the expansive and rapidly changing contemporary field seen in Volume 3. Our focus is on the anglophone Caribbean, which we bring into conversation with literary and political developments in the francophone and hispanophone Caribbean. Because the sociopolitical as well as the literary histories of these societies intersect at different points, highlighting such convergences helps provide a fuller picture of anglophone Caribbean literary studies. Connections with the Dutch-speaking Caribbean remain to be written, the result of still persistent divides in the region’s intellectual traditions.
This essay examines the Caribbean as a conflicting node of representation in essays, editorials, stories, and poems in three newspapers owned by Fredrick Douglass and one part-owned by Jamaican John Russwurm that were published in the USA between 1827 and 1874. The shifting and contradictory nature of this representation, ranging from the emancipated Caribbean’s role as a beacon in a ‘discourse of humanity’, to endorsement of US annexation plans as empire solidified, are a direct function of the constriction or widening of African American material space during the period. The condition of being enslaved yielded a different Caribbean-ward affect from the condition of being freedpeople, and the condition of being freedpeople yielded yet a different affect as the dream of black citizenhood emerged in the US post-emancipation era. The trajectory was one of alienation which resonates in African American-Caribbean literary relations today. Reflections are invited on the rise of national imaginaries and literatures across the African diaspora.
The years between the 1920s and 1970s are key for the development of Caribbean literature, producing the founding canonical literary texts of the Anglophone Caribbean. This volume features essays by major scholars as well as emerging voices revisiting important moments from that era to open up new perspectives. Caribbean contributions to the Harlem Renaissance, to the Windrush generation publishing in England after World War II, and to the regional reverberations of the Cuban Revolution all feature prominently in this story. At the same time, we uncover lesser known stories of writers publishing in regional newspapers and journals, of pioneering women writers, and of exchanges with Canada and the African continent. From major writers like Derek Walcott, V.S. Naipaul, George Lamming, and Jean Rhys to recently recuperated figures like Eric Walrond, Una Marson, Sylvia Wynter, and Ismith Khan, this volume sets a course for the future study of Caribbean literature.
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