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The Pitfalls of Feminist Nationalism and the Career of Una Marson

  • Leah Reade Rosenberg

Abstract

When she began publishing in the 1920s, Una Marson was one of the first Jamaican women to write and to promote Jamaican national literature. Like Thomas MacDermot and Herbert de Lisser, Marson was a central figure in a network of cultural institutions that sought to establish a national literature and the modernity of the Jamaican people. In addition to being the author of four books of poetry and at least three plays, she worked as a journalist and social worker. She cofounded the Jamaica Stenographers’ Association and served as editor of its journal. As well, she founded Jamaica’s Readers and Writers Club (1937) and the Pioneer Press (1949–1950).1 Marson is of particular importance to West Indian literary history because she appears to bridge the great divide between such writers as Lamming and Naipaul in the 1950s, and their literary forebears, such as MacDermot, de Lisser, and McKay. In the course of her career, Marson became increasingly critical of empire. Her aesthetic transformation mirrored this political shift. She gradually incorporated the creole language, folk music, and religion into her writing. She came to focus on the place of the peasantry and working class in emergent Caribbean nationalism of the 1930s and 1940s.

Keywords

African Culture National Literature Spirit Possession British Broadcasting Corporation Folk Religion 
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. 1.
    Delia Jarrett-Macauley, The Life of Una Marson (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 118Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Jarrett-Macauley, Life of Una Marson, 149, 157–159. Marson initiated the program at the BBC in 1943. Henry Swanzy took office in 1953. For more information on this program, see Glyne A. Griffith, “Deconstructing Nationalisms: Henry Swanzy, Caribbean Voices and the Development of West Indian Literature,” Small Axe 5, no. 2 (September 2001), 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 4.
    Erika Smilowitz, “Una Marson: Woman Before Her Time,” Jamaica Journal 16, no. 2 (May 1983), 62–68Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    See, for instance, Giovanna Covi, “The Voice of the Caribbean in New York: Una Marson,” in America Today: Highways and Labyrinths, ed. Gigliola Nocera (Siracusa, Italy: Grafià, 2003), 207–216Google Scholar
  5. Mary Lou Emery, Modernism, the Visual, and Caribbean Literature (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007).Google Scholar
  6. 20.
    Edward Seaga, “Revival Cults in Jamaica,” Jamaica Journal 3 (June 1969), 5; George Simpson, “Jamaican Revivalist Cults,” Social and Economic Studies 5 (1956), 339Google Scholar
  7. 21.
    Olive Lewin, Rock It Come Over: The Folk Music of Jamaica (Mona, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press, 2000), 193.Google Scholar
  8. 23.
    O. Nigel Bolland, The Politics of Labour in the British Caribbean: The Social Origins of Authoritarianism and Democracy in the Labour Movement (Kingston: Ian Randle, 2001), 301–302Google Scholar
  9. Walter G. McFarlane, “The Birth of Self-Government in Jamaica, 1937–1944” (Brooklyn: self-published, 1957), 3.Google Scholar
  10. 25.
    Diane J. Austin-Broos, Jamaica Genesis: Religion and the Politics of Moral Order (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1997), 76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 32.
    William Wedenoja, “Mothering and the Practice of ‘Balm’ in Jamaica,” in Women as Healers: Cross-Cultural Perspectives, ed. Carol Shepherd McClain (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1989), 88–91.Google Scholar
  12. 39.
    For a more extensive discussion of Marson’s construction of Pocomania as part of a singular African heritage, see Alison Van Nyhuis, “Nationalistic Myopia: Pocomania’s Reflection and Projection of the Jamaican Nation,” Sargasso 2 (2002), 115–127.Google Scholar
  13. 42.
    See, for example, Edmondson, Making Men: Gender, Literary Authority, and Women’s Writing in Caribbean Narrative (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999), 76Google Scholar
  14. 45.
    Claude McKay, Banana Bottom (1933; reprint, San Diego: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1961), 250.Google Scholar

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© Leah Reade Rosenberg 2007

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  • Leah Reade Rosenberg

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