This essay argues that the Caribbean migration narratives of Jean Rhys and George Lamming employ formal tactics associated with modernism to question values subtending literary realism and provide alternative models for thinking about relations between the novel form and community. The systematic orchestration of two key devices in Rhys's Voyage in the Dark and Lamming's The Emigrants challenges modes of perception, temporality, and history shaping the realist discourses each novel directly or indirectly invokes. Voyage in the Dark responds to Zola's naturalist novel Nana through the use of parataxis; The Emigrants responds to the generic conventions of postwar British neo-realism through parataxis as well as paralipses. These experimental strategies interrupt the plotting of migration as Bildung. The resistance to character development and narrative closure enacted in Voyage in the Dark and The Emigrants through parataxis and paralipses leaves the colonial migrants in the grip of an unresolved past. Yet these same devices also operate on a wider textual register to shift readers' focalization from realism's gaze, which disjoins observing subject from observed object, suturing readers and colonial migrants into what Jean-Luc Nancy calls a communité desouvré, a precarious collectivity that is never completely enclosed or stabilized, always safeguarding a discrepancy among members. By doing so, these novels work to transform what Lamming calls “ways of seeing.”
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Research Article| December 01 2011
Realism, Form, Politics: Reading Connections in Caribbean Migration Narratives
Comparative Literature (2011) 63 (4): 383–401.
Nicole Rizzuto; Realism, Form, Politics: Reading Connections in Caribbean Migration Narratives. Comparative Literature 1 December 2011; 63 (4): 383–401. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-1444437
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