dijous, 27 de febrer de 2014

Caribbean poets and their themes. Theme 4: THE RACIAL DIVIDE.

"If I did tell she hold this gold of sundizzy tonguelicking juicy".
The racial boundaries established by the coloniser triggered the creation of a series of clichés and stereotypes whose purpose was to undermine the dignity of the native.
The poem combines eroticism with a subtle examination of this dividedness and seems to conclude that, in spite of these socio-cultural and ontological differences, it is possible to fins a realm in which to share common experiences:
-        both the speaker and the English girl are trespassing these racial borders,
-        the former offering a typical Car fruit,
-        and the latter agreeing to eat it.
Here, every word can be interpreted from multiple perspectives, thus it can be understood as a means to illustrate the sexual initiation of an English girl.
The act of eating a Car fruit, so typical in ordinary Car life, turns out to be a mystery for the girl who does not know how she is supposed to eat the mango:
-       Her asking for guidance emphasises the cultural disparity between:
·         herself (Britain/EUR)
·         and the speaker (Car).
-       The girl eventually accepts to bite the mango, symbolically analysed as the breaking of the boundaries that separate these two world views.

The closing lines reveal:
-       the distance that still exist between the 1st and 3rd Worlds
-       and the lack of interest in getting to know more about cultures that are ignored by the W:
·         after eating the mango, she asks for a handkerchief so that she can wipe its juice from her sticky hands.
·          In the speaker's culture, nobody would wash his hands because that does not form part of their background.
·          He wants the girl to lick her fingers, inviting her, thus, to partake of his customs.

" I went to an all black school with an all black name".
The poem can be inscribed in the "protest poetry" tradition, the best means to
-       portray:
·          social injustice,
·          political chicanery,
·          racial violence.
-       reflect on the black experience as a succession of misfortunes and frustrations for their fate is to be subdued to the white will.
-       Allude to education and culture in an "all black" context and to black music as the marks of the AA and Acar identity.
He draws on lexical repetition to create a surprising ending: black + noun structure, reinforces the ironically frustrating twist at the end of the poem, where he reveals the real situation of the black population.

dimecres, 26 de febrer de 2014

Caribbean poets and their themes. Theme 3: THE LANGUAGE QUESTION.

"I am a murderer; I wring words by the rough of their necks".
He deals with language as an instrument of control and manipulation.
The poem is conceived as a long narrative dialogue that takes place in a court of justice, where two speakers discuss the nature of language:
-       It begins with the voice of the accused that is summoned to confess all the crimes committed against the purity of language, ironically his crime consists of speaking in a linguistic variety that departs from the standard.
-       He feels guilty for something that forms part of his identity and cultural background.
The judge appears as ominous and domineering:
-       He begins demarcating who holds the power position and exposing the offences.
-        He deprecates all the departures from the rule that might originate in the Car vernacular varieties, and addresses his interlocutor as "Rude Boy Q", a reference to the author's surname.
-        He blames the accused of trading with languages that corrupt the essence of English:
·         This is ironic because the only "word merchants" were the colonising nation that established their own languages perforce and sought to relegate local tongues to a marginal position.
·          For him, the "big models" can only be found in EUR and USA, the best exponents of a respectable and long-standing tradition and lineage. And he mentions several cultural benefactors, most of them only distinguished by their conception of culture as exclusively money-oriented.
-       He concludes by defending the valuable task undertaken by Br and A dialectologists, psycho-linguists and politicians in the consolidation of English as the most influential language worldwide (paradoxical because he has insisted on his rejection towards all the varieties of English).
The consistent use of personification enables the author to endow words with human attributes: letters and phonemes can be stabbed, bombed, lynched and violated as if they were human beings.

"We speak because when the rain falls in the mountains the river slowly swells".
It has a strong political component affirming the people's need to:
-       raise their voices
-       challenge the dictates imposed on them by foreign agents.
Speech means to be capable of:
-       contradicting and questioning,
-        standing instead of kneeling down.
She takes for granted that: the speaking ability is inherent to the human being, nobody can be forbidden this faculty:
-       She compares speech with all those natural phenomena that take place daily, encouraging her fellow citizens to:
·         leave behind that conformist attitude
·          and seek to regain a voice that had been lost.
-       Uttering words after so many years of forced silence is somehow an act of rebellion.
-       Language can enable the Car population to depart from the "plan" designed by the empire, establishing a correlation between speaking and dreaming, essential mechanisms to do away with the imperial yoke.
She also rejects the fact that surviving implies going for alms and catching crumbs from the table of the coloniser.
Speaking can also allow to break away from the religious dogmas the coloniser seeks to impose and which only interfere in their own system of beliefs.
Only when the WI have done away with that feeling of fear will the imperial venture and its iconography eventually end. She identifies this day with dawn, symbolising the beginning of a new period of liberation for the WI people. This new free state will bring about the disappearance of all the remnants of colonialism and the subsequent rising of the workers, peasants and leaders.
The poem is sustained upon a series of antitheses that
-       reveal the differences between coloniser and colonised.

-        focus on the "Other" stressing the pronoun "we", which usually refers to the white, mainstream, civilised population, and "they" to the black, peripheral and savage natives.

dilluns, 24 de febrer de 2014

Caribbean poets and their themes. Theme 2: THE EVILS OF COLONIALISM.

"First rape a people simmer for centuries".
The poem is conceived as a recipe in which:
-       the author lists a series of ingredients required to cook a meal, which turns to be the colonial venture.
-       The ingredients are all the dreadful acts committed in the name of the empire.
It opens with images related to rape and the takeover perforce of a foreign country and the sexual abuse perpetrated against women:
-       The poet is pointing out that the exposure to violence undergone by the colony inevitably turned it into a cowardly and passive realm in the hands of the imperial power.
-       He suggests that, besides raping, it is necessary to "simmer" these people for centuries,
·         revealing the extent to which the presence of the colonial force has been prolonged for centuries.
·          This verb is a simile that describes literally the act of letting these people boil slowly for ages until they are eventually destroyed.
·         Colonialism also depends on the ideological manipulation of the native population, thus the empire sought to brainwash the natives as a means of annihilating their individual and national consciousness, so that the empire could introduce new colonial-oriented parameters.
·         The poet draws on terminology related to cooking to highlight the notion that the collective memory of the colonised country was obliterated by the invading forces.
The ending of the poem is full of symbolism for the author presents
-       the last stages of colonialism and how the empire, after devastating the land, abandons it before it is entirely consumed.
-        a very metaphorical and symbolical language to describe how the colonial territories were swallowed up by the empire.

"The wind writes to me of a storm brewing in the Caribbean".
The treatment of landscape became a crucial motif in Car literature as:
-       a source of settings,
-       an element that endowed WI people with a sense of identity.
-       These landscapes were initially regarded as utopic Gardens of Eden where there was no sign of corruption.
-       But this scenario exemplifies the evolution undergone by Car literature in its exploration of landscape:
·         Idealisation gives way to pessimism.
·          Utopia is overshadowed by apocalypse.
·          These images
                + show nature in a convulsed and enraged state,
                + and they focus on the menaces that threaten the Car area.
·         The allusion to a monster swallowing the Car is a metaphorical way of addressing the Eur colonial giant, the British empire as the perpetrator of these atrocities.

In the second section of the poem, he describes the aftermath of the giant's aggression.
-       There is death and desolation everywhere
-        and the land is thronged with corpses and bones that carrion animals are gnawing.
-        He is suggesting that the period after the colonial era does not mean the eradication of the pressures and corruption, because:
·         what we find is the gradual disappearance of the WI identity in favour of W wealth and opulence.
·          Such wealth is only a mirage that rapidly vanishes.
·          Eur nations take advantage of this gradual loss of identity to prolong their imperial domination by setting up multinational companies in former colonial territories, which forces the WI countries to abide by the economic postulates dictated by the metropolis.
Faustin Charles uses sounds that reproduce this natural outrage, thus these key words contain very resonant consonants. The use of alliteration reinforces the importance sounds play in his work

"Mosquitoes are the fattest inhabitants".
He presents an animalised vision of human beings:
-       He's trying to reveal the flaws of the human condition and of those who advocate imperialism.
-       He constructs a veiled and indirect attack against the exploitative practices of the coloniser, who is compared to a mosquito:
·         The choice of this animal is crucial to understand the satiric effect of the poem, for he consciously includes a parasite insect that necessarily depends on humans to survive.
·          This is one of the foundations of imperialism, to live on the effort of the colonised until their exhaustion makes them unable for labour.
The poem is articulated through the contrast between: the opulence of the coloniser and the deprivation of the colonised:
-       Mosquitoes are "the fattest inhabitants of this republic" contrasts with the unbearable starvation endured by the native population.
-        Thus the abundance of a few usually results in the shortage of the masses.
-       He states that the colonial domination begins when a native child is born, and lasts until the empire abandons the territory.
-        The dictatorial control over the black population was regarded as a triumph and a duty that formed part of the white, civilising and evangelising agenda.
Religion, a less perceptible mechanism, becomes a pretext to conceal the barbarities committed in the name of God and Christianity to the extent of dismantling all those local expressions that might endanger its supremacy.
The animal imagery in the last two stanzas refers to the appalling conditions of the local population under the suffocating pressure exerted by the empire. The colonised is considered "bait for worms":
-       which illustrates the humiliating position they are forced to adopt.

-        This progressive dehumanisation turns the colonised into mere food for worms.

dimecres, 19 de febrer de 2014

Caribbean poets and their themes. Theme 1: FORCED IMMIGRATION AND CULTURAL CLASH.

"I leave me people, me land, me home"
It presents immigration as one of the most decisive factors in W.I. H.
The poet explores the feelings that precede and follow the departure from the mother country.
The initial lines already reveal the idea of departure and the uncertainties this decision still causes in the poetic voice. She is not capable yet of providing consistent reasons to explain why she is leaving behind her country and also her past.
She refers to "the sun" and "the humming bird" as indissoluble parts of the Carib landscape, emerging in opposition to the British "snow" and "cold".
In spite of her insecurity, it seems that moving westwards makes the speaker feel a moment of euphoria hoping to fulfil all her expectations in the New World. Nevertheless, her wishful tone turns into disappointment when Lord Nelson's statue appears, suggesting that the immigrant will not be allowed to forget or overcome a past of oppression, slavery and cruelty. The impressive dimension of the statue and the insignificance of the speaker point to meaningful parallelisms between the British imperial might and the Caribbean powerlessness.
The speaker seems not to get used to the hostile weather conditions in Great Britain, which heightens the difficulties of becoming integrated in this new society. From a warm sunny country she encounters a cold, damp and snowy Britain. This coldness could also be applied to the people's distant character. She seems to be complaining about the lack of spontaneity among the British, whose mechanical behaviour clashes with the apparent naturalness of the Car people. All this confusion leads her to affirm that she does not really know where she belongs, reinforcing the dislocation of the W.I.
She uses typical W.- I idiomatic structures ("me", "I not") reproducing the way Car speak English. She also uses a different spelling of words ("de"), reinforcing the idea that English is not only restricted to its RP or BBC pronunciation patterns but also to the multiple ways in which it is spoken.

"Me dah dead fi drink some coaknut water"
The poetic voice is that of one immigrant who nostalgically remembers Jamaica and the exuberance of its landscape.
England is the setting where the speaker celebrates the Jamaican environment and folklore to establish a contrast with the context in which she is now living. Beginning with explicit allusions to its gastronomy and typical products such as the breadfruit or coconut water.
She expresses her wishes from a distance that makes it impossible to enjoy Jamaica's mildness of weather again. The W.- I landscape became an element that built up the people's identity.
She keeps suggesting that she misses the spontaneity of Jamaica and its rural background, which clashes with the modernisation and urban growth undergone by England. This also enlarges the gap that exists between the Car and Europ lifestyles. And she states that she misses the presence of other black people with whom to share common experiences, responding to a reality immigrants endure after leaving their country. Black people are downgraded, isolated and reminded of their racial background, which drags them to a life of seclusion and privacy. The Car immigrant makes great efforts to become integrated and to appreciate the beauty of the surrounding environment. However, memories of Jamaica trigger the speaker's desire to return home, perhaps due to the fact that her Eur experience has proved a failure. For her Jamaica, in spite of its poverty, means to overcome the feeling of displacement she goes through daily in England.
She makes use of "Patois", a specific version of English in Jamaica, that faithfully reproduces the rhythmic and speech particularities of this variety, capturing the essence of spoken language.

"Things harness me here, I long"
It presents a satiric approach to the pointlessness of W civilisation, opening with several allusions to familial ties. The concept of family is articulated upon the close relatives and the "extended family", friends or neighbours who can take care of children:
-       She sadly remembers the warmth and affection of her family, which clashes with the coldness and intramural life of English people,
·         which impels her to complain about the way the British are zealous of their privacy,
·         which contrasts with the sense of collective identity that surges in the Car communities.
It points at excessive individualism as one of the traits that distinguishes W life from Car:
-       Her communal conscience is unable to understand the reasons that lead people to lock themselves in their houses, hindering the development of a more integrated and cooperative society.

The poem's main idea is that the WI living in Britain eventually leave their past behind, and even their identity, to become part of a reality that is not satisfying at all:
-       The poet unmasks the inner contradictions of W civilisation in which economic success usually comes as a result of sacrificing one's own happiness.
-        She states that, contrary to her former life in the Car, her money income is regular for the first time, although it is not a synonym of joy, for she does not laugh as much as she did at home.
-        Her depressed state of being is reinforced by the weather conditions, which explain why life in this country is intramural.
In the last section, Lucy ironically states that she is a sponge,:
-       but what she manages to absorb has nothing to do with either the E culture, language or customs,
-       but precisely all the shortcomings of modern lifestyle: noise, pollution, hypocrisy and lack of communication.

The poem is conceived as a dialogue between Lucy and an unknown addressee. And it calls to the "call and response" phenomenon that forms part of the black Car and A-A communities.

dimarts, 18 de febrer de 2014


The reasons why Europeans were seeking colonies so fervently in Africa are numerous, but none suggest cruelty, greed or evil-heartedness for them.
 Capitalism had reached a stage where control of capital was coming to be concentrated more and more in a few hands, which left too little purchasing power in the home market for the commodities that could be produced. Hence it created a situation of under-consumption. There was therefore the need to export to underdeveloped regions which might contain valuable raw materials.
The abundance of these raw materials in the underdeveloped regions might have caught the eye of these Europeans. And seeing that Africans obviously were not putting these vital raw materials into use as they would, naturally, they sought to put in mechanisms to dominate these resources. So with an upper hand in offensive weaponry, and no international laws to guard against an attempt to subjugate Africans, settled and dominated all facets of the African.
Another explanation borders on the prestige and honour it brought European governments, and the possibility to win voters when territories were won. Once again, it must not be forgotten that there were no international laws to make settling and domination illegal, nor were there global laws spelling out the rules of trade engagements.

Then there is the much hated reason, which is that the Europeans saw most of the practices in Africa and some parts of Asia as uncivilized, hence they took it upon themselves to embark upon a mission to civilize the world. This proclamation by the Europeans, partly racial and partly moral, may not be the best of remedies to what they saw as some of the morally inappropriate practices of some people in the world, but a slight justification comes for this mission to civilize when we consider human sacrifices made in the nineteenth century by some chiefs i as a traditional wont.
If thought determines action for persons, then by extrapolation the dominant ideologies in any period of time determine the phenomena of the world. The Europeans burnt women with strange behaviours at the stake in the era of witch-hunting. A phenomenon which occurred due to the idea of superstition.

This practice which was borne out of the belief in the supernatural does not exist anymore in these countries. The people who carried out acts like this and those of similar nature have gained the maturity in knowledge.
Pre-colonial Africa facilitated the European conquest. These internal dissension and conflicts said to have been brought about by artificial barriers of the colonizers, thereby alienating hitherto unified and organized African people existed even in pre-colonial Africa.

History attests that the states in pre-colonial Africa were plagued by internal dissonance because there were no widely accepted methods of transferring political power. African rulers supplied the major part of the 7.6 million slaves exported to the European colonies, as well as the unknown numbers sent by Muslim traders across the Sahara and the Indian Ocean
There is a significant link between some of the reasons of Africa's lateness to attaining socio-economic growth in the measure expected by virtue of her vast reserve of natural resources, and her colonial domination and slavery past.
Slavery and colonialism may have altered their path as Africans in their quest to the attainment of progress and the betterment of our living conditions. However, events in contemporary Africa, unpleasant as it may be, are caused by factors more within Africa and less by outside influences (no continent is without external challenges).
The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was a double-edged sword benefiting Europe and devastating Africa. It initiated the trafficking in African human beings to be enslaved and work in the "New World." It is an indisputable historical truth that the wealth created by that enslavement fuelled the Industrial Revolution that, if we honestly track the historical turn of events, has created this century's "developed world." The complement to and handmaiden of slavery and the slave trade was colonialism. It was to work the "colonies" that Africans were first brought to the Americas. The colonies were exploited for their natural resources and for those that were then created by unpaid labour. First and foremost the resources went always to and for the benefit of the "Mother Country."

The TAST depleted Africa of millions of its strongest and most fit workers. That loss in and of itself was devastating to Africa's development. This dire situation was further compounded by the colonization of the African continent. Racism, the same ideology developed by Europeans to justify their inhumane trafficking in Africans, was then used to justify the European colonization of, not only Africa, but the rest of the world. Racism, first directed towards Africans, became the ideology of choice for European expansion and colonization of Asia and the Pacific. "Inferior peoples" (always non-white) were being brought the benefits of civilization. In exchange for the wonders of Christianity, they need only surrender their lands, its resources, their labour and right to self-determination. Those who would not concede the advantages of Christianity were to be convinced by steel and gunpowder. Thus by persuasion and force of arms, Europeans implanted themselves on the American and Asian continents and the Pacific Islands. Often their strategy was genocidal, elimination of the truly indigenous where they proved unwilling or unfit to provide a sufficient profit for their colonial masters.

The conditions of Africans in the Diaspora and the African continent are characterized by "underdevelopment." That underdevelopment is neither genetic or the result of individual character flaws but flow directly from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Slavery and Colonialism. They are inseparably intertwined and bound together by racism. Any attempt to sever them is ahistorical. Any attempt to redress one aspect without addressing the others is doomed to failure. This connection between racism, the TAST and colonialism is not simply an issue for Africa and Africans. Remember, "The sun never sets on the British Empire." This is a global issue, which is why the West's resistance to it has been so fierce, so "intransigent." If the WCAR establishes the principle of the TAST and Colonialism as crimes against humanity, a precedent will be set from which the vast majority of the world's countries, nearly all former colonies, can benefit.
Colonialism and the slave trade represented an international criminal conspiracy of Europeans for Europeans. Like organized crime gangs who start out fighting for their own turf and, at some point realize, killing each other is counter-productive. Europe summed up it is better to divide the spoils amongst each other than to continually fight against each other. The clearest expression of this international conspiracy, of this European criminal enterprise, took place in Berlin in 1885-86. The Berlin Conference divided Africa up between the colonial masters. It made for a tidier racket. Don't infringe on each other's. Notwithstanding, the fact that these gangs didn't always respect their territorial agreements (WWI and WWII), they always submerged their differences when a threat to white supremacy was posed by the "coloured" hordes.
In the case of Africa and the Caribbean region, the period of slavery and the slave trade was followed by the period of colonialism. It can be argued that colonialism itself was a crime in international law, for it was usurpation, imposed by force, of the rights of the colonized peoples to their sovereignty. It was a the very least a crime against peace, and, in most if not all colonized territories, crimes against humanity were frequently committed. In the case of the United States, former slaves were subjected to a system of exclusive, separate development, racial persecution, civil rights denials and ghettoisation, which has only in part been overcome in the recent years following the civil rights movement.

The important point is that African peoples, until recently, had no independent voice, nor even any status in the world community. How could, the people of, say, Ghana o Jamaica make a claim for reparations when their country was considered to be an 'overseas possession' of the very country whose people had kidnapped and enslaved their ancestors? ... Even after the independence of African nations from colonialism, the shackles of neo-colonialism have fettered the power of African governments to speak with any real independence against their former conquerors.

dilluns, 17 de febrer de 2014


 Coetzee's "Foe" is a subversive novel for it challenges the ideology that underlies colonialism to present a story that deconstructs some of the myths historically associated to the imperial project
Foe demonstrates that colonialism can also be questioned through form and style, crucial mechanisms to unveil the decisive role played out by literature in the expansion and consolidation of the colonialist agenda.
Coetzee's work draws on postmodernism to reformulate several 18th-c literary expressions such as:
·          the epistolary genre,
·          the adventure romance,
·          the realist novel.
For postcolonial literature, postmodernism emerges as the best means of depicting the fragmented identity of the colonised, historically exposed to the alienating pressure of the empire:

-          The situation of the colonised cannot be depicted from a realist point of view because the postcolonial context is no longer uniform and stable.
-          Foe emerges as a novel that questions the pillars of realism and the ideological component that underlie it. Coetzee questions the omniscient narrator who knew and controlled the life and the thoughts of his characters.
-          Foe's reaction to Susan's conception of the novel leads him to reshape her story and thus he ostracises her plans and reveals the extent to which the 18th-c realist author tended to adopt a God-like pose.
-          Through his words, Foe manifests that the characters, the action and the style ultimately depend on his personal decisions and narrative manipulations.
-          At this moment, characters lose all their autonomy to become fictional in Foe's hands.
-          Coetzee's critique is also directed at all the ideological constraints that were implied in these novels, since most authors took advantage of their narrative position in order to manipulate the events according to their own will.
-          Coetzee appears as Foe's "other" since his narration lacks the predictability, organisation and time-order that Foe wants Susan's account to display:
·         Foe articulates his novel within a rigid cause-and-effect linearity that clashes with Coetzee's temporal and spatial disjointedness.
·         In Foe there is not a fixed time-line, but a series of flashbacks.
·         Coetzee suggests that the nature of truth is fragmented and that its apprehension as a totality is merely an illusion. Our conclusion can only be that we can simply have an impression of truth, which dismantles the claims for truthfulness in realist novels.
Post-colonialism and postmodernism also converge in that they give voice to those who have been historically silenced in both literary and socio-political terms:
-          Coetzee's novel is narrated by a woman
-          and one of its main protagonists is black.

However, Foe's distortion of Susan's story and how he addresses Friday is Coetzee's way of telling the reader that power is still in the hands of a white male character, turning literature in a mere source of benefits.