The figure of crusoe

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


One way of talking about Caribbean writers and modernism is to try to understand the relation between margin and centre, the perhaps historical or more broadly ‘cultural’ question of imperial tradition and native talent. Very different stories have been told, of course, about how Caribbean literature and culture comes to be modern, but they all share a common structure of belatedness: that is, the moment in which the colony, in its otherwise undeveloped form, is founded or grounded by the presence of a ‘discoverer’, whose presence is not really originary at all, but the secondary effect of how the imperial centre comes to project itself as origin from a retrojective saying or naming of the colony as inaugural New World. As retold by Caribbean writers, such stories were never simply about origins but about the imperial centre’s ability to institute itself as origin, and in ways that simultaneously called forth much anxiety and ambivalence on the margins as well as a (more or less desperate) search for a more native tradition, whose genealogy was never simply absent, or somehow present in its absence, and where the consequences of ‘discovery’ start from rupture, trauma or loss, rather than from the redemptive state of an imperial legacy or inheritance. This complication of discovery, derived here from a sense of belatedness, gives rise to counter-stories of both resistance and haunting, in which a kind of radical or absolute refusal gives way oftentimes, and occasionally in the same work, to a kind of historical or critical melancholia where the search is always for something more originary than the origin that imperialism both founds and disrupts. This archaeo-revisionist schema is in fact definitive of Caribbean modernism in general, and of its cultural politics in particular (where the thematics of innovation-dispossession often appear in highly gendered and racial forms).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationModernism and Masculinity
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781139097123
ISBN (Print)9781107020252
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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