Edward Baugh's essay “The West Indian Writer and His Quarrel with History” (1977) presents the quarrel as a condition rather than an event and investigates this specifically Caribbean psychopathology and the defense mechanisms associated with it. The investigation implicitly follows a sequence of questions: Does the West Indies have a history of its own? What does it mean to have to ask that? Whether the answer is yes or no, how does one come to terms with the answer? Is it better to have a history or to be free of one—by a willful amnesia if necessary? The investigation is complicated by the multiple meanings of the word history and by the underrepresentation of West Indian history in either literature or pedagogy until the nationalist period. Baugh's primary example for negotiating the quarrel is Derek Walcott, and the analysis can be supplemented and extended by including two features of Walcott's essay “The Muse of History” (1974): the image of history as a Medusa and the concept of presences. The value of Baugh's analysis can be exemplified by applying it to the negotiation with history under way in four quite different West Indian writers: Louise Bennett, Kamau Braithwaite, Wilson Harris, and finally Baugh himself.

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