Gikandi, Writing in Limbo: Modernism and Caribbean Literature
In Simon Gikandi's view, Caribbean literature (and postcolonial literature more generally) negotiate an uneasy relationship with the concepts of modernism and modernity--a relationship in which the Caribbean writer, unable to escape a history encoded by Europe, accepts the challenge of rewriting it. On the one hand, Gikandi says, the Caribbean was central to Europe's conceptions of its own modernity, and Caribbean writers, in turn, borrowed European' modernist techniques to define their own decolonized identity. On the other hand, even though many texts from the Caribbean use narrative techniques and discursive practices that seem modern or postmodern, the ideology underlying their use is strongly revisionist. According to Gikandi, Caribbean literature simultaneously appropriates and subverts European notions of modernism and modernity. Drawing on contemporary deconstructionist theory, Gikandi looks at how such Caribbean writers as George Lamming, Samuel Selvon, Alejo Carpentier, C. L. R. James, Paule Marshall, Merle Hodge, Zee Edgell, and Michelle Cliff have attempted to confront European modernism. Gikandi also calls into question the universal claims of European modernism and modernity by examining the unique sets of problems these concepts generate once they have been transferred to the "margins" of the modern world. Because modernity, Gikandi asserts, is a colonial legacy, the concept of modernism in the Caribbean is invariably linked to the cultures and ideologies of colonialism and nationalism. Writing in Limbo reveals how postcolonial literature and theory compel us to revise the protocols that govern the reading of modern literature. It will be welcomed by scholars in the fields of literary theory, postcolonial literature, cultural studies, and Caribbean studies.