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Caribbean literary theory: modernist and postmodern

Author(s): A. James Arnold

Journal: New West Indian Guide
ISSN 1382-2373

Volume: 69;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 103;
Date: 1995;
Original page

Keywords: Caribbean | literature | cultural development | cultural identity | book review

[First paragraph] The Repeating Mand: The Caribbean and the Postmodern Perspective. ANTONIO BENITEZ-ROJO. Durham NC: Duke University Press, 1992. xi + 303 pp. (Cloth US$ 49.95, Paper US$ 15.95) Myth and History in Caribbean Fiction: Alejo Carpentier, Wilson Harris, and Edouard Glissant. BARBARA J. WEBB. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992. x + 185 pp. (Cloth US$ 25.00) Caribbean literature has been overtaken of late by the quarrels that have pitted postmodernists against modernists in Europe and North America for the past twenty years. The modernists, faced with the fragmentation of the region that hard-nosed pragmatists and empiricists could only see as hostile to the emergence of any common culture, had sought in myth and its literary derivatives the collective impulse to transcend the divisions wrought by colonial history. Fifteen years ago I wrote a book that combined in its lead title the terms Modernism and Negritude in an effort to account for the efforts by mid-century Caribbean writers to come to grips with this problem. A decade later I demonstrated that one of the principal Caribbean modernists, Aimé Césaire, late in his career adopted stylistic characteristics that we associate with the postmodern (Arnold 1990). The example of Césaire should not be taken to suggest that we are dealing with some sort of natural evolution of modernism toward the postmodern. In fact the two terms represent competing paradigms that organize concepts and data so differently as to offer quite divergent maps of the literary Caribbean.
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