Errant Grounds: Eco-epic Textures in Contemporary Caribbean Literature Open Access

Kowalik, Anna Barbara (2015)

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"Errant Grounds: Eco-epic Textures in Contemporary Caribbean Literature" argues that Caribbean poets and artists engage the epic to envision diasporic belonging that emerges through a relation to nature. While in the continental tradition human history and politics have been conceptualized in opposition to nature, the authors selected for this study--Derek Walcott, Romare Bearden, Grace Nichols, and Edouard Glissant--call on the epic to envision historical continuity, political community, and diasporic futures as inseparable from and creatively transformed by the Caribbean natural world. The Introduction examines colonial appropriations of nature in the Caribbean, and shows that Afro-diasporic authors turn to the epic in order to affirm the archipelago as a space of life, resilience, complexity, and creativity. These poetic reclamations in turn reveal that nature operates as a creative agent within articulations of community and belonging, and cannot be dissociated from history. Subsequent chapters analyze entanglements of history and nature in articulations of Caribbean origins in selected poetry and art by elaborating a notion of an "eco-epic texture"--a mode of figuration that draws attention to creative relations between history, nature, and literariness in practices of postcolonial life-making. Chapter one considers works of Derek Walcott and Romare Bearden as they engaged the Caribbean Sea for a productively destabilizing inscription of diasporic cultural inheritance and political belonging. Chapter two analyzes the poetry of Grace Nichols as it rewrites Caribbean origins as an insurgent natural-feminine ground to open up alternative futures within the colonial past. Chapter three traces notions of epic and earth in Edouard Glissant. It argues that these categories are deployed to envision Caribbean cultural and political life within a relational rather than sovereign paradigm. Ultimately, in analyzing the centrality of nature in Caribbean theoretical and imaginary practice, "Errant Grounds" argues that poetic entanglements of nature and history in articulations of Caribbean origins highlight the complexity of Caribbean beginnings where nature works to disentangle historical and political imaginaries from colonial determinism, transforming spaces of constraint into sites of regained humanity.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Ecological Epic in the Caribbean

1. "Islands writing themselves": Ecological Inscriptions of Historicity in Romare Bearden and Derek Walcott

2. Caribbean Lipshores: Sexual Difference, Materiality, and Place in the Poetry of Grace Nichols

3. "Leaving the Dissolute Dispersed": Earth and Epic in Relation

Conclusion: Reading the Texts of Reality

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