This essay explores the particular importance conferred on literary expression within a wide range of writings dedicated to understanding and responding to the project of the West Indies Federation. Although federation was conceived, and briefly achieved, as a political expression of community building and people making, the consistent practice of referencing and invoking literary works across these writings reveals the project’s central and necessary investment in the reimagination of identities and belongings. Yet while the literary expression of a West Indian sensibility helped to articulate the political consciousness necessary for change, it could not finally overcome the sources of tension in the region. Importantly, too, the same West Indian writers who symbolized the collective belonging to the region, so cherished by federation, were themselves embroiled in the discordant realities of economic markets and measures and caught between national and international belongings.
West Indian Literature and Federation: Imaginative Accord and Uneven Realities
Alison Donnell is a professor of modern literatures in English and the head of the School of Literature, Creative Writing, and Drama at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom. She has published widely on Caribbean and black British writings, with a particular emphasis on challenging orthodox literary histories and recovering women’s voices. She is the general editor of the forthcoming three-volume Caribbean Literature in Transition, 1800–2015. She is also leading a major research project, “Caribbean Literary Heritage: Recovering the Lost Past and Safeguarding the Future,” funded by the Leverhulme Trust (www.caribbeanliteraryheritage.com).
Alison Donnell; West Indian Literature and Federation: Imaginative Accord and Uneven Realities. Small Axe 1 March 2020; 24 (1 (61)): 78–86. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-8190601
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