Caribbean Shadows and Victorian Ghosts: Women's Writing and Decolonization

Caribbean Shadows and Victorian Ghosts: Women's Writing and Decolonization

by Kathleen J. Renk


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IN AN ERA of social chaos, religious skepticism, and postrevolutionary fear, the idea of the stable middle-class family acquired a mythical status in nineteenth-century England. This image of the traditional family--based upon the supposed natural superiority of white elders--also served as a paradigm for the relationship of the British to their colonial subjects during the Victorian era.

As this book shows, remnants of this myth live on and are played out in the contemporary Caribbean. In Caribbean Shadows and Victorian Ghosts, Kathleen Renk demonstrates how contemporary Anglophone Caribbean women's writing radically subverts the powerful myth of the family as it is constructed in nineteenth-century British and colonial texts.

Reading the fiction of Jamaica Kincaid, Dionne Brand, Jean Rhys, Erna Brodber, and Michelle Cliff alongside British texts such as Dickens's Great Expectations and Brontë's Jane Eyre, she argues that Anglophone Caribbean women writers create new narratives that simultaneously "bury" Victorian ghosts--the discourse on the Victorian mother, the plantation family discourse, and the discourse on madness--and "catch" Caribbean shadows--the histories of forgotten or elided Caribbean ancestors and narratives of resistance.

These women writers radically depart from both British and Caribbean literary precursors as they reconfigure Caribbean identity, family, and nation according to cross-cultural, transnational, and transtemporal paradigms.

Because it is the first book to examine the vital textual connections between Victorian and Anglophone Caribbean literatures, and because it draws on the work of sociologists, anthropologists, historians, and feminist and postcolonial theorists, the book should have wide-ranging appeal.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813918365
Publisher: University of Virginia Press
Publication date: 04/28/1999
Pages: 174
Product dimensions: 6.11(w) x 9.03(h) x 0.66(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Kathleen Renk is a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at the University of Iowa.

Table of Contents

1.She Catch She Shadow: Lighting the Way toward Decolonization14
2.Inside the Magic Circle of Girlhood: "Mothers" in Anglophone Caribbean Women's Writing28
3.The Holy Family in the Colonial Garden60
4.Emerging from the Shadows of Victorian Madness88
5.Reinscribing the Garden: Female Tricksters at the Crossroads121

What People are Saying About This

Kathleen M. Balutansky

Kathleen Renk's careful documentation of the connections between Anglophone Caribbean women's texts and Victorian discourses on hierarchy, family, and race make this book essential reading for scholars of Caribbean literature in general, and Caribbean women's writing in particular.

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