The purpose of this book is to extend the historical dimension of Paul Gilroy’s original conception of the black Atlantic. I argue that the literary interplay, and the creative potential and hybridity that Gilroy sees as definitive of the black Atlantic began with precolonial English characterizations of Africa, blacks, and the landscapes they occupied, and not with the advent of the Middle Passage, as Gilroy argues. The contemporary Anglophone Caribbean writers I discuss engage with concepts that first entered the English language through those characterizations, using them to create new, hybridized identities capable of surviving in the face of centuries-old racisms. In this way, I argue, they create a black Atlantic that is not only culturally hybrid, but that displays what I call a temporally synchronous hybridity—that is, a hybridity within which elements of the precolonial past are actively involved in shaping and understanding the contemporary realities of the Caribbean, and in the movement of the present into the future. This reconsideration of the history of the Anglophone black Atlantic is written as a response to several criticisms of Gilroy’s original conception of the black Atlantic which have all focused on the theory of its advent in the Middle Passage. I suggest that reading past the Middle Passage to the black Atlantic’s precolonial beginnings allows us to add a greater sense of historicity to Gilroy’s conception, thus further advancing the work he set out to do.
KeywordsMedieval Period Black Culture Creative Energy Postcolonial Theory Cultural Hybridity
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- 2.For a history of the term and its cognates see Charles Stewart, “Syncretism and its Synonyms: Reflections on Cultural Mixture,” Diacritics: A Review of Contemporary Criticism 29:3 (Fall 1999): 40–62.Google Scholar
- 3.On this see also Edna Aizenberg, “ ‘I Walked With a Zombie’: The Pleasures and Perils of Postcolonial Hybridity,” World Literature Today: A Literary Quarterly of the University of Oklahoma 73:3 (Summer 1999): 461–466.Google Scholar
- 11.Other examples of this method are Davis (1998); Biddick and Uebel, both in Jeffrey J. Cohen, ed., The Postcolonial Middle Ages (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000) 35–52, 261–282.Google Scholar
- 12.Kathleen Biddick, The Shock of Medievalism ( Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998 ).Google Scholar
- 15.See James Campbell et al., eds., The Anglo-Saxons ( New York: Penguin, 1982 ).Google Scholar