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A. James Arnold

Argues that creolité, antillanité and Negritude are not only masculine but masculinist as well. They permit only male talents to emerge within these movements and push literature written by women into the background. Concludes that in the French Caribbean there are 2 literary cultures: the one practiced by male creolistes and the other practiced by a disparate group of women writers.

A. James Arnold

[First paragraph]The Repeating Mand: The Caribbean and the Postmodern Perspective. ANTONIO BENITEZ-ROJO. Durham NC: Duke University Press, 1992. xi + 303 pp. (Cloth US$ 49.95, Paper US$ 15.95)Myth and History in Caribbean Fiction: Alejo Carpentier, Wilson Harris, and Edouard Glissant. BARBARA J. WEBB. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992. x + 185 pp. (Cloth US$ 25.00)Caribbean literature has been overtaken of late by the quarrels that have pitted postmodernists against modernists in Europe and North America for the past twenty years. The modernists, faced with the fragmentation of the region that hard-nosed pragmatists and empiricists could only see as hostile to the emergence of any common culture, had sought in myth and its literary derivatives the collective impulse to transcend the divisions wrought by colonial history. Fifteen years ago I wrote a book that combined in its lead title the terms Modernism and Negritude in an effort to account for the efforts by mid-century Caribbean writers to come to grips with this problem. A decade later I demonstrated that one of the principal Caribbean modernists, Aimé Césaire, late in his career adopted stylistic characteristics that we associate with the postmodern (Arnold 1990). The example of Césaire should not be taken to suggest that we are dealing with some sort of natural evolution of modernism toward the postmodern. In fact the two terms represent competing paradigms that organize concepts and data so differently as to offer quite divergent maps of the literary Caribbean.

A. James Arnold

[First paragraph]Aime Cesaire. GREGSON DAVIS. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. xvi + 208 pp. (Cloth US$ 59.95)Caribbean Poetics: Toward an Aesthetic of West Indian Literature. SILVIO TORRES-SAILLANT. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. xiv + 353 pp. (Cloth £45.00)Islands and Exiles: The Creole Identities of Post/Colonial Literature. CHRIS BONGIE. Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 1998. xi + 543 pp. (Cloth US$ 65.00, Paper US$ 24.95)The three books under review here all make important claims for a Caribbean poetics, but they do so from perspectives that range from practical criticism (Davis), through comparative poetics (Torres-Saillant), to what is sometimes called high theory (Bongie). With the exception of Davis's book, which is a detailed treatment of a single seminal figure, they range widely and seek grounds for broad comparative assessments. The need to establish such grounds for comparison is witnessed by the volume History of Literature in the Caribbean, which Bongie and Torres-Saillant both reference. To find one's way in this potentially dizzying display of critical and theoretical acumen, it will be most helpful to proceed from the general to the particular, from high theory to practical criticism.