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Postcolonialism & Autobiography

Michelle Cliff, David Dabydeen, Opal Palmer Adisa


Edited by Alfred Hornung and Ernstpeter Ruhe

The two volumes on Postcolonialism and Autobiography examine the affinity of postcolonial writing to the genre of autobiography. The contributions of specialists from Northern Africa, Europe and the United States focus on two areas in which the interrelation of postcolonialism and autobiography is very prominent and fertile: the Maghreb and the Anglophone and Francophone Caribbean. The colonial background of these regions provides the stimulus for writers to launch a program for emancipation in an effort to constitute a decolonized subject in autobiographical practice. While the French volume addresses issues of the autobiographical genre in the postcolonial conditions of the Maghreb and the Caribbean with reference to France, the English volume analyzes the autobiographical writings of David Dabydeen (Guyana), Michelle Cliff, Opal Palmer Adisa, George Lamming, Wilson Harris (Jamaica), and Jamaica Kincaid (Antigua) who have maintained their cultural Caribbean origin while living in England or the United States. Critics such as William Boelhower, Leigh Gilmore, Sidonie Smith, and Gayatri Spivak reveal the many layers of different cultures (Indian, African, European, American) that are covered over by the colonial powers. The homeland, exile, the experience of migration and hybridity condition the postcolonial existence of writers and critics. The incorporation of excerpts from the writers' works is meant to show the great variety and riches of a hybrid imagination and to engage in an interactive dialogue with critics.

Uncertain Mirrors

Magical Realism in US Ethnic Literatures


Jesús Benito, Ana María Manzanas and Begoña Simal

Uncertain Mirrors realigns magical realism within a changing critical landscape, from Aristotelian mimesis to Adorno’s concept of negative dialectics. In between, the volume traverses a vast theoretical arena, from postmodernism and postcolonialism to Lévinasian philosophy and eco-criticism. The volume opens and closes with dialectical instability, as it recasts the mutability of the term “mimesis” as both a “world-reflecting” and a “world-creating” mechanism. Magical realism, the authors contend, offers another stance of the possible; it also situates the reader at a hybrid aesthetic matrix inextricably linked to postcolonial theory, postmodernism, Bakhtinian theory, and quantum physics. As Uncertain Mirrors explores, magical realist texts partake of modernist exhaustion as much as of postmodernist replenishment, yet they stem from a different “location of culture” and “direction of culture;” they offer complex aesthetic artifacts that, in their recreation of alternative geographic and semiotic spaces, dislocate hegemonic texts and ideologies. Their unrealistic excess effects a breach in the totalized unity represented by 19th century realism, and plays the dissonant chord of the particular and the non-identical.

Poetry and the Sense of Panic

Critical Essays on Elizabeth Bishop and John Ashbery


Edited by Lionel Kelly

For all the disciplined artifice of Elizabeth Bishop and John Ashbery, the essays in this collection show that panic plays a crucial role in their work, giving substance to Bishop's claim that “an element of mortal panic and fear” underlines all art. Panic emerges as a condition of creative anxiety and the self-imposed demands of originality in response to the poetic traditions Bishop and Ashbery inherited. These concerns are explored in essays addressed to Bishop and Ashbery's engagement with European Surrealism as an alternative to the dominant poetics of Modernism and its aftermath in the middle years of the twentieth century. Other essays debate the philosophical, religious, and political orientation of their work in relation to Romantic orthodoxies and Postmodern ironies in terms of cultural history, ideology and poetic practice. This collection provides original commentaries on the work of two poets widely regarded as amongst the most significant American poets of the second half of the twentieth century with essays by notable scholars from the United States and Britain known for their special interests in modern poetry including Joanne Feit Diehl, Mark Ford, Edward Larissy, Peter Nicholls, Peter Robinson, Thomas Travisano, Cheryl Walker and Geoff Ward.

The woman of the crowd

Urban displacement and failed encounters in surrealist and postmodern writing


Daniela Daniele

This book traces the origins of the Postmodern eclectic grammar of linguistic collision back in the Surrealist poetics of ruins. Keeping in mind the images of lost direction in the big city as a central figure in the discussion of both the Modern and Postmodern aesthetics of displacement, Daniele starts comparing the epiphanic encounters of the Baudelairian flâneur in metropolitan Paris - in constant search for the traces of a lost symbolic order - with Breton's enigmatic pursuit of Nadja, the elusive sphinx in the crowd who moves in a mental territory of puzzling condensations and of ineffable objets trouvé. In his visual and written work, Marcel Duchamp was probably the first artist to envision the space of the crowd as a trans-urban, multiple dimension: a cool arena of disjunctive encounters contributing to transform the Surrealist erotic space of desire in a cooler, open field of performance.
Deeply influenced by Duchamp's hybrid aesthetics, American Postmodern writers such as Donald Barthelme and Thomas Pynchon, and the performance artist Laurie Anderson, represent metropolis as a “geographical incest”, as a plural, entropic semiosphere which transcends the notion of urban community to become the tolerant receptacle of an ethnic and discoursive multiplicity, an electronic area of linguistic collisions translatable in new fragmented and unfinished narratives. Evoking the assemblages of Abstract Expressionists, the debris of Simon Rodia “junk art”, and the hybrid language of Postmodern architecture, this neo-Surrealist narrative discourse transforms the epiphanic traces envisioned by the Baudelairian and Bretonian heroes in partial parodies, in enigmatic fragments whose ultimate source transcends the narrator's knowledge. The conceptual strategy which is constitutive of these texts implicitly asks the puzzled reader to disentangle the entropic plots, immerging him in the midst of a “linguistic wilderness,” where all opposites - fact and fiction, man and machine, man and female - enigmatically and humorously coexist.

Diaspora and Multiculturalism

Common Traditions and New Developments


Edited by Monika Fludernik

In postcolonial theory we have now reached a new stage in the succession of key concepts. After the celebrations of hybridity in the work of Homi Bhabha and Gayatri Spivak, it is now the concept of diaspora that has sparked animated debates among postcolonial critics. This collection intervenes in the current discussion about the 'new' diaspora by placing the rise of diaspora within the politics of multiculturalism and its supercession by a politics of difference and cultural-rights theory. The essays present recent developments in Jewish negotiations of diasporic tradition and experience, discussing the reinterpretation of concepts of the 'old' diaspora in late twentieth- century British and American Jewish literature. The second part of the volume comprises theoretical and critical essays on the South Asian diaspora and on multicultural settings between Australia, Africa, the Caribbean and North America. The South Asian and Caribbean diasporas are compared to the Jewish prototype and contrasted with the Turkish diaspora in Germany. All essays deal with literary reflections on, and thematizations of, the diasporic predicament.

Mimi Sheller

[First paragraph]The Caribbean Postcolonial: Social Equality, Post-Nationalism and Cultural Hybridity. Shalini Puri. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. ix + 300 pp. (Paper US$ 24.95)Miraculous Weapons: Revolutionary Ideology in Caribbean Culture. Joy A.I. Mahabir. New York: Peter Lang, 2003. ix + 167 pp. (Cloth US$ 58.95)The relation between cultural production and political struggle, and between the aesthetic and the material as expressions of social relations, are absolutely central themes within Caribbean studies in all of its disciplinary and interdisciplinary guises. A key question for the field as a whole is what role it might play in generating new approaches to “cultural political economy,” which is emerging as an effective bridging concept at the intersections of anthropology, sociology, economics, political theory, and literary and cultural studies.

Aisha Khan

[First paragraph]Nation Dance: Religion, Identity, and Cultural Difference in the Caribbean. PATRICK TAYLOR (ed.). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001. x +220 pp. (Paper US$ 19.95)Translating Kali 's Feast: The Goddess in Indo-Caribbean Ritual and Fiction. STEPHANOS STEPHANIDES with KARNA SINGH. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000. xii + 200 pp. (Paper US$ 19.00)Between Babel and Pentecost: Transnational Pentecostalism in Africa and Latin America. ANDRÉ CORTEN & RUTH MARSHALL-FRATANI (eds.). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001. 270 pp. (Paper US$ 22.95)Encyclopedia of African and African-American Religions. STEPHEN D. GLAZIER (ed.). New York: Routledge, 2001. xx + 452 pp. (Cloth US$ 125.00)As paradigms and perspectives change within and across academie disciplines, certain motifs remain at the crux of our inquiries. Evident in these four new works on African and New World African and South Asian religions are two motifs that have long defined the Caribbean: the relationship between cultural transformation and cultural continuity, and that between cultural diversity and cultural commonality. In approaching religion from such revisionist sites as poststructuralism, diaspora, hybridity, and creolization, however, the works reviewed here attempt to move toward new and more productive ways of thinking about cultures and histories in the Americas. In the process, other questions arise. Particularly, can what are essentially redirected language and methodologies in the spirit of postmodern interventions teil us more about local interpretation, experience, and agency among Caribbean, African American, and African peoples than can more traditional approaches? While it is up to individual readers to decide this for themselves, my own feeling is that it is altogether a good thing that these works still echo long-standing conundrums: the Herskovits/Frazier debate over cultural origins, the tensions of assimilation in "plural societies," and the significance of religion in everyday life. Perhaps one of the most important lessons that research in the Caribbean has for broader arenas of scholarship is that foundational questions are tenacious even in the face of paradigm shifts, yet can always generate new modes of inquiry, defying intellectual closure and neat resolution.

Chris Bongie

[First paragraph]Decolonizing the Text: Glissantian Readings in Caribbean and African-American Literatures. DEBRA L. ANDERSON. New York: Peter Lang, 1995. 118 pp. (Cloth US$46.95)L'Eau: Source d'une ecriture dans les litteratures feminines francophones. YOLANDE HELM (ed.). New York: Peter Lang, 1995. x + 295 pp. (Cloth US$ 65.95)Postcolonial Subjects: Francophone Women Writers. MARY JEAN GREEN, KAREN GOULD, MICHELINE RICE-MAXIMIN, KEITH L. WALKER & JACK A. YEAGER (eds.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. xxii + 359 pp. (Paper US$ 19.95)Statue cou coupe. ANNIE LE BRUN. Paris: Jean-Michel Place, 1996. 177 pp. (Paper FF 85.00) Although best remembered as a founding father of the Negritude movement along with Aime Cesaire, Leopold Senghor was from the very outset of his career equally committed - as both a poet and a politician - to what he felt were the inseparable concepts of la francophonie and metissage. Senghor's has been an unabashedly paradoxical vision, consistently addressing the unanswerable question of how one can be essentially a "black African" and at the same time (in Homi Bhabha's words) "something else besides" (1994:28). In his "Eloge du metissage," written in 1950, Senghor ably described the contradictions involved in assuming the hybrid identity of a metis (an identity that offers none of the comforting biological and/or cultural certainties - about "rhythm," "intuition," and such like - upon which the project of Negritude was founded): "too assimilated and yet not assimilated enough? Such is exactly our destiny as cultural metis. It's an unattractive role, difficult to take hold of; it's a necessary role if the conjuncture of the 'Union francaise' is to have any meaning. In the face of nationalisms, racisms, academicisms, it's the struggle for the freedom of the Soul - the freedom of Man" (1964:103). At first glance, this definition of the metis appears as dated as the crude essentialism with which Senghor's Negritude is now commonly identified: in linking the fate of the metis to that of the "Union francaise," that imperial federation of states created in the years following upon the end of the Second World War with the intention of putting a "new" face on the old French Empire, Senghor would seem to have doomed the metis and his "role ingrat" to obsolescence. By the end of the decade, the decolonization of French Africa had deprived the "Union franchise" of whatever "meaning" it might once have had. The uncompromisingly manichean rhetoric of opposition that flourished in the decolonization years (and that was most famously manipulated by Fanon in his 1961 Wretched of the Earth) had rendered especially unpalatable the complicities to which Senghor's (un)assimilated metis was subject and to which he also subjected himself in the name of a "humanism" that was around this same time itself becoming the object of an all-out assault in France at the hands of intellectuals like Foucault.

Michael Niblett

twelve essays examines work by a range of Caribbean writers, covering issues such as creolization and cross-cultural identity, migration, tourism, U.S. imperialism, political activism, and gender and sexuality. The unifying theme, argue the editors, is the hybridity of Caribbean culture and the way in