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Introduction: The Power of Exile

  • Leah Reade Rosenberg

Abstract

Between 1934 and 1938, strikes and protests spread across the British Caribbean from Belize to Jamaica in what many historians and literary writers have characterized as a revolution. Politicizing the working class and peasantry, these rebellions acted as a catalyst for the rise of national consciousness and movements for self-government. Writing in the 1930s, the Jamaican writer Una Marson captured the power many contemporary intellectuals saw in the labor revolts when she described the 1938 uprising in Jamaica as “the birth of a soul.” In the only remaining fragment of a play Marson wrote about this revolt, the middle-class protagonist, Peter, asks a woman friend to join him in the streets.1 When she asks where they are going, he explains that it is “a new sort of maternity case. The birth of a soul.” “Whose?” she asks, and he replies, “Our country’s.” Marson was but one of the many anglophone Caribbean intellectuals in the 1930s who saw the creation of national arts as an integral part of this national awakening. Whether located in the Caribbean or living in exile abroad, Caribbean writers dedicated themselves to establishing authentic national literatures based on working-class and peasant culture. Not infrequently, they referred to this national, folk literature as the soul of the nation or of the people.2

Keywords

Literary History Black Working National Literature Folk Culture Cultural Nationalism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 3.
    Stephen J. Randall and Graeme S. Mount, The Caribbean Basin: An International History (London: Routledge, 1998), 32.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Alison Donnell, Twentieth-Century Caribbean Literature: Critical Moments in Anglophone Literary History (New York: Routledge, 2006), 11.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    George Lamming, The Pleasures of Exile (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992), 38–39.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Kamau Brathwaite, “The New West Indian Novelists: Part One,” Bim 8, no. 31 (1960): 204Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Simon Gikandi, Writing in Limbo: Modernism and Caribbean Literature (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992), 33Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Kenneth Ramchand, The West Indian Novel and Lts Background (London: Faber and Faber, 1970), 31.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    See Evelyn O’Callaghan, “A Hot Place, Belonging to Us,” in Women Writing the West Indies, 1804–1939 (New York: Routledge, 2004)Google Scholar
  8. Selwyn Cudjoe, Beyond Boundaries: The Intellectual Tradition of Trinidad and Tobago in the Nineteenth Century (Wellesley, MA: Calaloux, 2003)Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Gikandi, Maps of Englishness: Writing Identity in the Culture of Colonialism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996)Google Scholar
  10. Belinda Edmondson, Making Men: Gender, Literary Authority, and Women’s Writing in Caribbean Narrative (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    Kamau (Edward) Brathwaite, The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica, 1770–1820 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971)Google Scholar
  12. 17.
    See O. Nigel Bolland, “Creolisation and Creole Societies: A Cultural Nationalist View of Caribbean Social History,” in Questioning Creole: Creolisation Discourses in Caribbean Culture, ed. Verene A. Shepherd and Glen L. Richards (Mona, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press, 2002), 15–46.Google Scholar
  13. 18.
    Patrick Bryan, The Jamaican People, 1880–1902: Race, Class, and Social Control (Mona, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press, 1991), 260Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Leah Reade Rosenberg 2007

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  • Leah Reade Rosenberg

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