In response to three discussions of the author’s Creole Noise: Early Caribbean Dialect Literature and Performance (2022), this essay raises questions about the meaning of authenticity in the production of literary Creole in the anglophone Caribbean from the eighteenth century to the present. It puts into conversation related progressive concepts of Creole, such as Kamau Brathwaite’s formulation of nation language, with early racist ventriloquist Creole narratives by White creoles in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It does so as a way of disentangling what we mean when we identify an authentic Creole voice. This essay also examines the role of linguistics in affirming or disproving the authenticity of historical Creole narratives; distinguishes spoken Creole from written; and considers the importance, or lack of importance, in identifying authors when constructing a history of literary Creole. Authors discussed include Henry Garland Murray, Kamau Brathwaite, V. S. Naipaul, Cynric Williams, and Samuel Augustus Mathews.
The Importance of Being (In)Authentic
Belinda Edmondson teaches literature in the Departments of English and Africana Studies at Rutgers University, Newark. She is author of several books on Caribbean literature, including Making Men: Gender, Literary Authority, and Women’s Writing in Caribbean Narrative (1999), Caribbean Middlebrow: Leisure Culture and the Middle Class (2009), and, most recently, Creole Noise: Early Caribbean Dialect Literature and Performance (2022). She is an elected member of the Johns Hopkins University Society of Scholars.
Belinda Edmondson; The Importance of Being (In)Authentic. Small Axe 1 November 2023; 27 (3 (72)): 254–262. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-10899260
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