Disturbers of the Peace
Representations of Madness in Anglophone Caribbean Literature
Publication Year: 2013
Exploring the prevalence of madness in Caribbean texts written in English in the mid-twentieth century, Kelly Baker Josephs focuses on celebrated writers such as Jean Rhys, V. S. Naipaul, and Derek Walcott as well as on understudied writers such as Sylvia Wynter and Erna Brodber. Because mad figures appear frequently in Caribbean literature from French, Spanish, and English traditions—in roles ranging from bit parts to first-person narrators—the author regards madness as a part of the West Indian literary aesthetic. The relatively condensed decolonization of the anglophone islands during the 1960s and 1970s, she argues, makes literature written in English during this time especially rich for an examination of the function of madness in literary critiques of colonialism and in the Caribbean project of nation-making.
In drawing connections between madness and literature, gender, and religion, this book speaks not only to the field of Caribbean studies but also to colonial and postcolonial literature in general. The volume closes with a study of twenty-first-century literature of the Caribbean diaspora, demonstrating that Caribbean writers still turn to representations of madness to depict their changing worlds.
Published by: University of Virginia Press
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Title Page, About the Series, Copyright, Dedication
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Introduction: Madness, Caribbeanness, and the Process of Nation Building
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Mad mad, mad mad mad, mad mad . . . Paul Keens-Douglas’s rhythmic repetition illustrates both the complexity and the consistency with which literary artists appropriate madness to represent Caribbean life. The poem reveals the ambiguity of the term mad as each repetition confuses rather than enlightens the reader.1 The poet leaves his audience...
1. Manias and Messiahs
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In a reverse of the traditional scholarship route, in 1960 V. S. Naipaul returned to Trinidad from England on a three-month government- sponsored scholarship. The stipulated three months stretched beyond a year as Naipaul, at the suggestion of then premier Eric Williams, undertook the project of a book-length essay on the Caribbean...
2 The Necessity for Madness
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In Miguel Street, V. S. Naipaul’s use of sketches affords him the opportunity to provide a multifaceted view of Trinidad on the brink of independence. Yet while several voices are represented, the use of the unnamed narrator limits access to the thoughts and motivations of the characters. Readers are restricted by the narrator’s thoughts and judgments...
3. “Fighting Mad”
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In a 1958 letter to actress and friend Selma Vaz Dias, Jean Rhys detailed her desire to rewrite the story of the “Creole lunatic” in Jane Eyre. Despite the challenge, she delared herself firm in rectifying what she saw as the unfairness of Charlotte Brontë’s representation of the first Mrs. Rochester and related the difficulties of working with the...
4. Shared Dreams and Collective Delirium in Derek Walcott’s Dream on Monkey Mountain
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In 1967, just prior to the play’s first production, Derek Walcott described Dream on Monkey Mountain as “an attempt to cohere various elements in West Indian folklore, but . . . also a fantasy based on the hallucination of an old woodcutter who has a vision of returning to Africa.”1 This first production occurred in Canada, but Walcott’s utilization...
5. “Claims to Social Identity”
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In a manner similar to Jean Rhys’s brief last section of Wide Sargasso Sea, Erna Brodber’s Jane and Louisa Will Soon Come Home represents madness from a tangled first-person perspective. It seeks to speak from the inside, rather than to merely represent from a distance, the madness of a dissociated Jamaican woman. The resulting...
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In ending, I return to where I began, with Paul Keens- Douglas’s “Jus’ Like Dat.” But here I turn to the closing stanza of the poem, which repeats the beginning of the opening stanza but takes the speaker and his audience in a new direction. This repetition of words, phrases, and in this case the opening lines of the poem primarily contributes...
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Other Works in the Series
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Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: New World Studies