The Accidental Modernist: Thomas MacDermot and Jamaican Literature

  • Leah Reade Rosenberg


Jamaica’s early cultural nationalism was of a piece with the cultural nationalisms of nineteenth-century Trinidad. As in Trinidad, an Afro-creole class emerged in Jamaica to establish a network of newspapers, literary societies, and mutual aid organizations to articulate political demands, cultural identities, and, not insignificantly, Jamaican modernity. In Jamaica, however, this network did not emerge until the turn of the twentieth century. Jamaican nationalism also differed in two other important regards from its Trinidadian counterpart: it made the production of a national literature a strong priority, and it included a broad spectrum of racial and ethnic groups.


Colonial Government National Literature Spirit Possession Folk Religion Folk Culture 
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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Patrick Bryan, The Jamaican People, 1880–1902: Race, Class, and Social Control (Mona, Jamaica: University of West Indies Press, 1991), 204.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Roberts, Six Great Jamaicans (Kingston, Jamaica: Pioneer Press, 1952), 87.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Claude McKay, My Green Hills of Jamaica, and Five Jamaican Short stories, ed. Mervyn Morris (Kingston: Heinneman Educational Books, 1979), 86.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    J. E. Clare McFarlane, ed., Voices from Summerland: An Anthology of Jamaican Poetry (London: Fowler Wright, 1921)Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Thomas Henry MacDermot, One Brown Girl and—: A Jamaica Story (Kingston: Jamaica Times Printery, 1909), i.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    There are biographical sketches and brief discussions of MacDermot’s work in McFarlane, A Literature in the Making (Kingston: Pioneer Press, 1956)Google Scholar
  7. Roberts, Six Great Jamaicans (Kingston: Pioneer Press, 1952).Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    Kenneth Ramchand, The West Lndian Novel and Its Background (London: Faber and Faber, 1970), 54–55Google Scholar
  9. Mervyn Morris, “The All Jamaica Library,” Jamaica Journal 6, no. 1 (March 1972): 47–49.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    Belinda Edmondson, Making Men: Gender, Literary Authority, and Women’s Writing in Caribbean Narrative (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999), 39.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    Bryan, Jamaican People, 198, 222, and 165; Thomas H. Farr, “Early Years of the Natural History Division,” Jamaica Journal 18, no. 2 (May–July 1985): 19.Google Scholar
  12. 20.
    Tucker, Barton, S. “Mr. Froude’s West Indies,” Victoria Quarterly 1, no. 2 (May 1889), 24–35.Google Scholar
  13. 21.
    Thomas Henry MacDermot, “A Tale of Morant Bay Disturbances,” Victoria Quarterly 2, no. 1 (January 1890), 41–47.Google Scholar
  14. 22.
    For an analysis of literary representations of the rebellion, see Rhonda Cobham, “Fictions of Gender, Fictions of Race: Retelling Morant Bay in Jamaican Literature,” Small Axe 8 (September 2000), 1–30.Google Scholar
  15. 23.
    Thomas Holt, The Problem of Freedom: Race, Labor, and Politics in Jamaica and Britain, 1832–1938 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 302.Google Scholar
  16. 30.
    Walter Jekyll, Jamaican Song and Story: Annancy Stories, Digging Sings, Ring Tunes, and Dancing Tunes (London: Folk-lore Society, 1907).Google Scholar
  17. Augusta Zelia Webb Fraser [Alice Spinner, pseud.], A Study in Colour (London: T. F. Unwin, 1894)Google Scholar
  18. 36.
    Rupert Lewis, Marcus Garvey: Anticolonial Champion (London: Karia Press, 1987), 41–43.Google Scholar
  19. 39.
    Lara Putnam, The Company They Kept: Migrants and the Politics of Gender in Caribbean Costa Rica, 1870–1960 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002), 35Google Scholar
  20. Bonham Richardson, “Caribbean Migrations, 1838–1985,” in The Modern Caribbean, ed. Franklin W. Knight and Colin A. Palmer (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 203–208.Google Scholar
  21. 42.
    William Pringle Livingstone, Black Jamaica (London: William Clowes and Sons, 1899), 112Google Scholar
  22. 43.
    Sydney Olivier, White Capital and Coloured Labour (London: Independent Labour Party, 1906), 37.Google Scholar
  23. 55.
    See Hyacinth Simpson, “Patterns and Periods: Oral Aesthetics and a Century of Jamaican Short Story Writing,” Journal of West Indian Literature 12, nos. 1–2 (November 2004), 4.Google Scholar
  24. 64.
    See, for example, Doris Sommer, Foundational Fictions: The National Romances of Latin America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  25. 72.
    Simon Gikandi, Writing in Limbo: Modernism and Caribbean Literature (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992), 27.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Leah Reade Rosenberg 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leah Reade Rosenberg

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations