4 Signs of Sycorax
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

4 Signs of Sycorax The previous chapter explored twentieth-century challenges to representations of the Haitian Revolution as solely a heroic romantic male enterprise. In this chapter, I explore contemporary manifestations of Caribbean women who rehearse The Tempest’s archetypal character Sycorax, Shakespeare’s silenced female figure. Sycorax appears in an array of understudied texts of conquest: André Schwarz-Bart’s novel A Woman Named Solitude (1973), Grace Nichols’s poem “Ala” (1983), and the novels Indigo (1992) by Marina Warner and The Salt Roads (2003) by Nalo Hopkinson. These authors’ characters interrupt, challenge, and make way for the emergence of an oppositional consciousness against intimate and public power, as Sycorax did with Caliban, her son, and Prospero , the former Duke of Milan, who claimed her unidentified island. Schwarz-Bart’s novel imagines the life of Solitude, a hero of Guadeloupean emancipation. Nichols’s “Ala” is the African deity to whom the poem’s enslaved women pray when one of their own is tortured to death for infanticide.1 Warner’s novel imagines Sycorax as an indigenous woman who raises an African child and is caught in the initial encounter between natives and Europeans. Hopkinson’s text has three female protagonists who are Sycorax-like, from three time periods , each dealing with issues of sexuality, belief, and belonging in their respective eras. These texts rehearse Sycorax as rebel and mother and extend our expectations of nationalist mothering. Though victimized , these characters are not portraits of the weeping mother as injured and in need of the protection of the nationalist cause (per Anne McClintock); rather, they are integral to the cause and, because of circumstance, embrace nontraditional notions of how mothers fight for and within the nation. Additionally, they each nurture in 115  Signs of Sycorax quite different ways and sometimes, in rehearsing their care, particularly when manifested through absence, contradict the private and public power of motherhood. Feminist rehearsal is both a guiding metaphor and a method for discussing significant moments—real and fictive—that highlight the gendered connections between culture and the implications of national belonging. This transformation of textual meaning through pauses, inflections, and movements produces multiple readings of Sycorax and the hegemonic and structural forces with which she is entangled. Each outcome or rehearsal furthers the understanding of a cultural artifact while producing the next rehearsal, thus becoming a type of praxis. Each rehearsal facilitates empathy, which means not only understanding another’s story but being moved to make change, to wish to transform. These transformations develop communities of consensus that then seek accountability and transparency. Rehearsing Sycorax means disrupting national or state-sanctioned gender discourses to expose the divergences in narratives of power and modes of domination in plantation states. Though dealing with a “limited archive,” so to speak, it is imperative to reexamine evidence of characters called “Sycorax,” but it is also necessary to use Sycorax and the discursive power she embodies as a model for reading women’s stories that are replete with the contradictions of engaging with the plantation system. The writers who have examined Sycorax in some way recognize her power and invoke her as a presence in challenging authoritarian male narratives that repeatedly evoke and invoke women as decorative but passive, and which erase the realities of sexual violence enacted on female bodies. The culture engendered by the violation of rape is one of impunity for male aggression and desires, which implicates women as teasers and instigators of the violence perpetrated against them. Rape culture and heteronomative desire make impenetrable the structural violence of plantation economies. Sycoraxian Solitude I examine the interplay between Schwarz-Bart’s A Woman Named Solitude and Jacky Poulier’s statue because Poulier’s work, located in a roundabout on the Boulevard of Heroes in Abymes, Guadeloupe, is inspired by Schwarz-Bart’s conception. Solitude commemorates the historical woman who escaped slavery, became a Maroon, and fought Napoleon Bonaparte’s 1802 reimposition of slavery in Guadeloupe. 116  Signs of Sycorax With arms on her hips, pregnant belly extended, and head held high, Solitude towers above a traffic junction as Guadeloupeans go about their daily lives. Solitude’s rebellion, part of the legend of collective acts of Caribbean resistance, occurs at the same time as the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804) and on the heels of France’s own revolution (1789–1799); she is but one manifestation of a Caribbean woman who negotiated her desire for freedom within the degradations of slavery. While Poulier’s representation celebrates Solitude as...


pdf

Subject Headings

  • Caribbean literature -- History and criticism.
  • Feminist literature -- Caribbean area.
  • National characteristics, Caribbean, in literature.
  • Feminism in literature.
  • Gender identity in literature.
  • Caribbean Area -- In literature.
  • Caribbean Area -- In art.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access