Island Paradise: The Myth

An Examination of Contemporary Caribbean and Sri Lankan Writing


A colonial discourse has perpetuated the literary notion of islands as paradisal. This study explores how the notions of island paradise have been represented in European literature, the oral and literary indigenous traditions of the Caribbean and Sri Lanka, a colonial literary influence in these islands, and the literary experience after independence in these nations. Persistent themes of colonial narratives foreground the aesthetic and ignore the workforce in a representation of island space as idealized, insular, and vulnerable to conquest; an ideal space for management and control. English landscape has been replicated in islands through literature and in reality – the ‘Great House’ being an ideological symbol of power.
Island Paradise: The Myth investigates how these entrenched notions of paradise, which islands have traditionally represented metonymically, are contested in the works of four postcolonial authors: Jamaica Kincaid, Lawrence Scott, Romesh Gunesekera, and Jean Arasanayagam, from the island nations of the Caribbean and Sri Lanka. It analyzes texts which focus on gardens, island space, and houses to examine how these motifs are used to re-vision colonial/contested sites. This book examines the relationship between landscape and identity and, with reference to Homi K. Bhabha, considers how these writers offer an alternative space for negotiating the ambivalence of hybridity.

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Biographical Note

Melanie Murray gained her BA and MA in literature at the Open University and a doctorate at the University of Northampton. She has published articles in World Literature Written in English and South Asian Literature in English: An Encyclopedia, ed. Jaina C. Sanga (2004) and also in the Journal of Postcolonial Writing. She is the Membership Secretary for the Postcolonial Studies Association and a Managing Editor for the Journal of Postcolonial Writing.

Table of contents

Islands and the Paradise Myth
Gardening and Conquest: Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place, My Garden (book):, and Among Flowers
Islands and Self-Discovery: Romesh Gunesekera’s Reef and Heaven’s Edge
The Garden as England’s ‘Islanded Self’: Jean Arasanayagam’s Colonizer/Colonized, “I Will Lift up Mine Eyes,” “The Witness,” and “The Garden Party”
Empire and the House: Lawrence Scott’s Witchbroom, Romesh Gunesekera’s The Sandglass, and Jean Arasanayagam’s “Time the Destroyer”
Works Cited

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