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Abstract

Taking on board debates, past and present, about the contested category of Caribbeanness, this chapter interrogates various conversations about Jean Rhys and cultural appropriation. It looks at how authors from one ‘socio-cultural orientation’ (including race and gender) construct the voices of characters of another orientation, and whether a black male writer who writes a white woman character, putting his words into her mouth, so to speak, constitutes appropriation in the same way that Kei Miller claims in his 2018 essay that certain white Caribbean women writers appropriate the black male voice. I use as a test case Caryl Phillips, who has throughout his writing career often movingly evoked white women characters. After mentioning some of these, I look at his recent A View of the Empire at Sunset and its potentially problematic relation to the life (and voice) of Jean Rhys.

In: Caryl Phillips’s Genealogies
In: Caryl Phillips’s Genealogies
Thematically and structurally, the work of the Kittitian-British writer Caryl Phillips reimagines the notion of genealogy. Phillips’s fiction, drama, and non-fiction foreground broken filiations and forever-deferred promises of new affiliations in the aftermath of slavery and colonization. His texts are also in dialogue with multiple historical figures and literary influences, imagining around the life of the African American comedian Bert Williams and the Caribbean writer Jean Rhys, or retelling the story of Othello. Additionally, Phillips’s work resonates with that of other writers and visual artists, such as Derek Walcott, Toni Morrison, or Isaac Julien. Written to honor the career of renown Phillipsian scholar Bénédicte Ledent, the contributions to this volume, including one by Phillips himself, explore the multiple ramifications of genealogy, across and beyond Phillips’s work.