Memory and Myth

Postcolonial Religion in Contemporary Guyanese Fiction and Poetry

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This book investigates the problematical historical location of the term ‘religion’ and examines how this location has affected the analytical reading of postcolonial fiction and poetry. The adoption of the term ‘religion’ outside of a Western Enlightenment and Christian context should therefore be treated with caution. Within postcolonial literary criticism, there has been either a silencing of the category as a result of this caution or an uncritical and essentializing adoption of the term ‘religion’. It is argued in the present study that a vital aspect of how writers articulate their histories of colonial contact, migration, slavery, and the re-forging of identities in the wake of these histories is illuminated by the classificatory term ‘religion’. Aspects of postcolonial theory and Religious Studies theory are combined to provide fresh insights into the literature, thereby expanding the field of postcolonial literary criticism. The way in which writers ‘remember’ history through writing is central to the way in which ‘religion’ is theorized and articulated; the act of remembrance can be persuasively interpreted in terms of ‘religion’. The title ‘Memory and Myth’ therefore refers to both the syncretic mythology of Guyana, and the key themes in a new critical understanding of ‘religion’. Particular attention is devoted to Wilson Harris’s novel Jonestown, alongside theoretical and historical material on the actual Jonestown tragedy; to the mesmerizing effect of the Anancy tales on contemporary writers, particularly the poet John Agard; and to the work of the Indo-Guyanese writer David Dabydeen and his elusive character Manu.
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Biographical Note

FIONA DARROCH is a post-doctorate researcher in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, and research training co-ordinator for the Faculty of Arts, at the University of Glasgow. She did her undergraduate degree and PhD at the University of Stirling, Scotland, where she then lectured for two years (School of Languages, Cultures and Religions) in Caribbean religions and literatures, postcolonial theory, and the critical theory of religion. She is an associate editor for Literature and Theology: An International Journal of Religion, Theory and Culture, and is the author of several articles on religion in Caribbean literature.

Table of contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction
Shifting the Boundaries: A Postcolonial Interrogation of the Category ‘Religion’
Developing a Hermeneutic for the Combined Study of Religion and Postcolonial Literature
Religion and Remembrance: Wilson Harris’s Jonestown as an Act of Anamnesis
Caught in Anancy’s Web: The Poetry of John Agard, Grace Nichols, and Others
Sacred Migrations in Indo-Guyanese Fiction and Poetry: The Work of David Dabydeen
Conclusion
Works Cited
Index

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