West Indian literature has had a vexed relationship with literary history. While most syllabi, handbooks, and exam lists still seem to confirm George Lamming’s (1991: 38) notorious claim that he was writing “without any previous native tradition to draw upon,” scholars from the 1990s on have made the case that writers from before the Windrush generation of 1948 deserve attention for both literary and historical reasons. Glissant’s pronouncements that West Indian writers “are writing forewords to tomorrow’s literature” or that “West Indian literature doesn’t exist yet” reflect on its past as well (quoted in Degras and Magnier 1984: 14–20). West Indian literature had not yet remembered its past, but its earliest forms from the early nineteenth and late eighteenth centuries are finding readers again. Only in the early 2000s did reissues of novels like Hamel, the Obeah Man (1827),...

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