Translated Modernities: Locating the Modern Subject in Caribbean Literature

Bonnelame, Natasha. 2016. Translated Modernities: Locating the Modern Subject in Caribbean Literature. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

My thesis sets out to explore the literary representations of Caribbean modernity in selected fiction by Erna Brodber, V.S. Reid, Simone Schwarz-Bart and Joseph Zobel. Reading their texts in relation to modern Caribbean subjectivity, I employ a historiographical approach to pan-Caribbean theoretical movements and link these with the works. I suggest that in the selected fiction we can begin to map a Caribbean modernist literary tradition that seeks to locate the Caribbean subject through terms that reflect the over-determined history and creolised nature of the region. I read their literary representations of Caribbean modernity through the matrix of the plantation, the ship and the creolised city in an attempt to complicate hegemonic discourses that privileges and imposes Western modernity on the development of Caribbean literary modernity.

In an attempt to re-locate the Caribbean subject, I suggest that these writers inscribe a series of narrative techniques that complicates traditional Caribbean and Western literary canons. Through the use of the creolised language and folk practices that have long been considered ‘low culture’, they develop a literary discourse that is discomforting and difficult to access.A central aim of my thesis concerns locating the gendered modern subject, who, I argue, has stood on the margins of Caribbean intellectual thought and literary criticism.

Underpinning my argument and the basis of my theoretical framework are two observations concerning the Caribbean made by CLR James and Stuart Hall respectively. For James, the Caribbean is a product of a peculiar history, while Hall concludes that for the population of the Caribbean and Caribbean diaspora, a process of translation that significantly differs from hybridity occurred at the point of the region’s present day formation. This notion of a peculiar origin and the process of translation I assert are central to understanding literary representations of Caribbean modernity.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Caribbean, Literature, Creolisation, Modernity, Erna Brodber, V.S. Reid, Simone Schwarz-Bart, Joseph Zobel

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature > Centre for Caribbean Studies


30 April 2016

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

03 Jun 2016 14:39

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:39


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