Despite burgeoning interest in the cultural politics of the Jamaican 1970s, little critical attention has been paid to texts engaging that era in a popular-fiction mode. Starting from the conviction that popular-fiction texts potentially offer new ways of construing and understanding moments of crisis, this essay attempts to redress that oversight. Its discussion of three novels of the Jamaican 1970s by Perry Henzell, Lee R. Duffus, and Tony Sewell reveals how the novels’ imaginative reworkings of the 1970s in a counterfactual mode constitute ruminations on historiography and suggest the symbolic resources and epistemological limitations that will characterize future representations of the era in multiple genres. The essay closes with a brief discussion of Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings, sketching its alignments and discontinuities with the earlier texts and proposing that it offers a fertile opportunity to rethink the ultimately untenable division between the literary and the popular.
Reading the Jamaican 1970s as Political Thriller: Lessons from Pop Fiction
Rachel L. Mordecai is an associate professor in the Department of English, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of West Indian Literature. She is primarily interested in Caribbean literature and culture. Her book Citizenship Under Pressure: The 1970s in Jamaican Literature and Culture (2014) investigates the role of expressive culture in negotiating and memorializing the politically tumultuous and culturally vibrant 1970s in Jamaica.
Rachel L. Mordecai; Reading the Jamaican 1970s as Political Thriller: Lessons from Pop Fiction. Small Axe 1 March 2019; 23 (1 (58)): 62–76. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-7374454
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