Mimicry and Identity on the Black Atlantic: Derek Walcott’s Dream on Monkey Mountain

  • Kofi Omoniyi Sylvanus Campbell


Wilson Harris rereads tradition and history in the Guyana Quartet with an eye to creating a more inclusive understanding of identities and community in the postcolonial Caribbean. Derek Walcott too seeks to reread the place of historical understanding of blacks in con-temporary Caribbean thought; Dream on Monkey Mountain, though, does not resolve itself into the fully inclusive model that Harris’s tetralogy does. Walcott’s play tells the story of Makak, an old black man living alone on Monkey Mountain, and his insane dream. This is a story very much informed by echoes of the Middle English precolonial discourse of Africa and blacks. The Middle English texts I examined in the first two chapters often constructed black Africans as monstrous, inhuman, and primitive in relation to the northern English who comprised their audiences. These constructions were enlisted into the colonialist discourses of the ensuing centuries, surviving until today in forms not so different from those in the medieval period. In fact, they were so successfully incorporated into later discourses on race and colonialism that even in various racist expositions today they can be seen almost unchanged. So concretized did these constructions become in (post)colonial racist discourse that their histories have become lost, and they have achieved the status of commonplace knowledges (although Walcott lets us know that he is quite aware of their precolonial roots).


White Woman Medieval Period Colonial Power Caribbean Black English Culture 
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  1. 6.
    See Taylor; and Paula Black, “Sex and Travel: Making the Links,” in Stephen Clift and Simon Carter, eds., Tourism and Sex: Culture, Commerce and Coercion ( London: Pinter, 2000 ) 250–264.Google Scholar
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    A term coined by the Jamaican poet Louise Bennet, in her poem “Colonization in Reverse.” See Paula Burnett, ed., The Penguin Book of Caribbean Verse ( London: Penguin, 1986 ).Google Scholar

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© Kofi Omoniyi Sylvanus Campbell 2006

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  • Kofi Omoniyi Sylvanus Campbell

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