The Pitfalls of Feminist Nationalism and the Career of Una Marson

  • Leah Reade Rosenberg


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.


African Culture National Literature Spirit Possession British Broadcasting Corporation Folk Religion 
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    Delia Jarrett-Macauley, The Life of Una Marson (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 118Google Scholar
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    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
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© Leah Reade Rosenberg 2007

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  • Leah Reade Rosenberg

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