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Elusive Origins

The Enlightenment in the Modern Caribbean Historical Imagination

Paul B. Miller

Publication Year: 2010

Kant's definition of the Enlightenment as an emergence of humanity from its self-incurred immaturity begs a number of questions, argues Paul Miller, when seen through the lens of the modern Caribbean historical imagination. It yields a set of structural paradoxes that trap the Caribbean writer in the binary tensions of center/periphery, master/slave, leaders/masses, rendering the origins of the Caribbean's own modernity "elusive."

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

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Introduction: The Structure of the Enlightenment

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pp. 1-26

While the questions of modernity and postmodernity have been posed with regard to Latin America and the Caribbean on numerous occasions and in a variety of forms, less discussion has been generated in this context about the putative origins of Occidental modernity, the Enlightenment. Moreover, while conversations about modernity and postmodernity in Latin America and the Caribbean often take place in a highly theoretical realm...

Part I. Inaugurating the Modern Caribbean Historical Imagination

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pp. 27-83

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1 Carpentier and the Temporalities of Mutual Exclusion

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pp. 29-56

The import/export operation that Carpentier describes in this epigraph does not amount to a “symbiosis” characterized by mutual benefit to the parties involved. Symbiosis implies compatibility, whereas much of the force of Carpentier’s writing stems from the incongruity of different peoples and civilizations that occupy the same space at a given historical moment. Perhaps no image is more characteristic of Carpentier’s description than that of the old slave Ti Noël...

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2 Enlightened Hesitations: C. L. R. James, Toussaint L’Ouverture, and the Black Masses

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pp. 57-83

In the previous chapter, I characterize the writing of Alejo Carpentier as being informed by a subtle contradiction at its core: the author’s proclaimed intention to find synthesis and symbiosis between Afro-Caribbean and European Enlightenment culture is in fact belied by the narrative and psychological propensity to thematize their very incommensurability. In the case of the great Trinidadian writer and intellectual C. L. R. James, an inverse tendency seems to operate...

Part II. Chauvet, Cond

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pp. 85-127

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3 Conflicted Epiphanies: Politicized Aesthetics in Marie Chauvet’s Dance on the Volcano

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pp. 87-107

In a footnote in her formidable Haiti, History and the Gods, Joan Dayan says the following about the Haitian author Marie Chauvet (1919–1973, also known by her maiden name, Vieux-Chauvet): “Haiti’s greatest writer has suffered the curse of near oblivion.”1 The dramatic history of the publishing of Chauvet’s novels is itself almost worthy of a novelistic depiction...

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4 Alliances and Enmities in Maryse Condé’s Historical Imagination

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pp. 108-127

Marie Chauvet’s récit Amour concludes with the oneiric and sacrificial assassination of the sadistic local commander Calédu, who embodies for the protagonist, Claire Clamont, the oppressive legacies of racism and patriarchy. And yet for Maryse Condé, commenting on this symbolically charged denouement, “the well-known link between executioner and victim is apparent, even if the conclusion is reversed, even if the conclusion is not a triumph...

Part III. The Center and the Periphery Cannot Hold

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pp. 129-174

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5 Cuban Cogito: Reinaldo Arenas and the Negative Historical Imagination

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pp. 131-150

Wittgenstein’s proposition, as stated in the epigraph— that there is no causality between the will and the world—might be taken generally as an anti-Enlightenment position. The Enlightenment held that the will can to some extent determine the world, that the latter is largely a question and result of the former. What is required is a conscious decision to declare one’s own autonomy, to throw off the yoke of extraneous authority...

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6 Heightened Perceptions: Rodr

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pp. 151-174

In his essay “Puerto Rico y el Caribe: Historia de una marginalidad” (Puerto Rico and the Caribbean: History of a Marginality), Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá describes a Caribbean cultural condition that is characterized primarily by a feeling of loss and incompleteness: If Fanon showed us the reality of colonial Manichaeism, the great Caribbean writers and artists converge...

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Conclusions: Before and After, Here and There

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pp. 175-193

The writers studied in this monograph abounding in the discernment of binary structures contribute to a critique of this historical framework. By approaching the question of the Enlightenment in the Caribbean through the modern historical imagination, the very idea of the Enlightenment is partially dismantled or deconstructed, not only as something that the Caribbean and Latin America may or may not have “had,” but also as a unified or homogeneous philosophical school or historical period in the first place...

Notes

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pp. 195-211

Works Cited

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pp. 213-224

Index

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pp. 225-230


E-ISBN-13: 9780813931296
E-ISBN-10: 0813931290
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813929798
Print-ISBN-10: 0813929792

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Danticat, Edwidge, ǂd 1969- ǂx Criticism and interpretation ǂv Handbooks, manuals, etc.
  • Enlightenment -- Caribbean Area.
  • Modernism (Literature) -- Caribbean Area.
  • History in literature.
  • Literature and history -- Caribbean Area.
  • Caribbean Area -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
  • Caribbean literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
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