- A Regarded Self: Caribbean Womanhood and the Ethics of Disorderly Being by Kaiama L. Glover
In her groundbreaking new book, A Regarded Self: Caribbean Womanhood and the Ethics of Disorderly Being, Kaiama Glover proposes an innovative theoretical framework for reappraising the role of Caribbean women in literature and literary criticism. In particular, she probes the concept of community, a notion that has dominated much postcolonial writing with its emphasis on combating colonial erasure and allowing Caribbean writers to write themselves back into history. Glover links community as a theoretical concept to masculinist writers and literary movements such as Édouard Glissant’s Antillanité and Jean Bernabé, Patrick Chamoiseau and Raphaël Confiant’s Créolité, but also, importantly, to womanist discourses that privilege the self-sacrificing and powerful poteau mitan, women who forge their own forms of community and ensure oral histories are transmitted down the family line. Glover stresses that “community” remains a powerful, and often limiting, trope for both male and female writers. Wishing to interrupt this narrative, Glover instead shines the spotlight on what she terms the “disorderly women” who refuse community, are focused on the self, and are often antithetical to the overall needs of the group. Her investigation is both extratextual and textual and looks “not only at the ways in which these characters disorder their narrative communities but also at the ways in which their creators disturb and have been misapprehended by communities of theorists and readers, more broadly” (5).
The works that constitute her corpus encompass well-known novels from both francophone and anglophone Caribbean writers: Maryse Condé’s I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem (Moi, Tituba . . . sorcière noire, 1986); René Depestre’s Hadriana in All My Dreams (Hadriana dans tous mes rêves, 1988; translated from the French by Glover); Marie Chauvet’s Daughter of Haiti (Fille d’Haïti, 1954); Jamaica Kincaid’s The Autobiography of My Mother (1996); and Marlon James’ The Book of Night Women (2009). She opens her study with a glossary entitled “Terms of Engagement” where she provides a brief definition of the concepts that shape her analysis: disorderly; self-defense; self-love; self-possession; self-preservation; and self-regard. For each novel Glover then takes one of these terms and links it to the main character under investigation: self-love: Tituba; self-possession: Hadriana; self-defense: Lotus; self-preservation: Xuela; and self-regard: Lilith. Glover’s exploration of these disorderly characters and their critical reception is deep and insightful, offering new perspectives on these much-analyzed novels. It becomes clear that by privileging their individual needs and identities over the community, these women are offering challenges both to their literary universe and to the critics analyzing them. This book will appeal to both specialist and general readers, but it is particularly compelling in its enactment of a new way of approaching literature from the region. As Glover asserts, “[t]hese women remind us that any commitment to inclusivity and justice must make room for wayward subjects” (37). A Regarded Self makes a truly unique contribution to Caribbean literary criticism.