Jamaican poet, playwright, and political activist Una Marson consistently returns to images of black Jamaican girls throughout her 1930s poetry. Instead of being conditioned by gender and race as edible commodities, Marson describes her black girls as “sweet” to conjure and exorcise the imposition of England’s literary history upon colonial subjects, especially through allusions to William Wordsworth and his sweet girls, as well as the colonial history of Jamaica’s sugar cane exploitation. Reading Marson’s representations of sweet black girls in conjunction with Sianne Ngai’s aesthetic category of the “cute” paves a new avenue of inquiry into Marson’s poetry illuminating how she transforms the colonial commodity into a Jamaican girl whose future is not predetermined. Understanding Marson’s aesthetic experiments compels scholars not only to reassess Marson’s romantic influences, but also returns aesthetics to transnational modernist studies without consuming colonial specificity in the process.


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pp. 65-87
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