Tempest in the Caribbean

Tempest in the Caribbean

Tempest in the Caribbean

Tempest in the Caribbean

Synopsis

Shakespeare's The Tempest has long been claimed by colonials and postcolonial thinkers alike as the dramatic work that most enables them to confront their entangled history, recognized as early modernity's most extensive engagement with the vexing issues of colonialism--race, dispossession, language, European displacement and occupation, disregard for native culture. Tempest in the Caribbean reads some of the "classic" anticolonial texts--by Aime Cesaire, Roberto Fernandez Retamar, George Lamming, and Frantz Fanon, for instance--through the lens of feminist and queer analysis exemplified by the theoretical essays of Sylvia Wynter and the work of Michelle Cliff. Extending the Tempest plot, Goldberg considers recent works by Caribbean authors and social theorists, among them Patricia Powell, Jamaica Kincaid, and Hilton Als. These rewritings, he suggests, and the lived conditions to which they testify, present alternatives to the masculinist and heterosexual bias of the legacy that has been derived from The Tempest. By placing gender and sexuality at the center of the debate about the uses of Shakespeare for anticolonial purposes, Goldberg's work points to new possibilities that might be articulated through the nexus of race and sexuality. Place sexuality at the center of Caribbean responses to Shakespeare's play.

Excerpt

THE SCENE: AN UNINHABITED ISLAND.

Tempest in the Caribbean is an essay in cultural theory and literary analysis situated at the crossing of Caribbean and early modern studies marked by The Tempest and a number of twentieth-century texts that use Shakespeare's play for anticolonial purposes. “Tempest” in my title alludes to both scenes of inscription, a despecification that matches the setting of the play, an island notoriously unmoored and variously located: a place between north Africa and Italy and yet an Atlantic locale, perhaps indeed situated in the black Atlantic that Paul Gilroy summons up to figure the condition of modernity. This lack of fixity, this multiplicity of unfixed locations, may well be, as Brent Hayes Edwards has suggested to me, a condition of possibility for the reinscription of Shakespeare in numerous sites of colonial translation: into an English that refuses imperial ownership of the tongue, into French and Spanish (and, indeed, into those “foreign” languages first, by Ernest Renan and José Enrique Rodó, prompting later anticolonial reinscriptions). However, in the name of the character who has become a byword for anticolonial riposte, Caliban—a character who is, according to the stage direction, not there, for the island is “uninhabited”—one finds a supposed specificity of locale. “The Caribbean” in my title points to anticolonial writing's aim to write into existence a being first named through an initial misdescription of a tribal solidarity characterized by the act of cannibalism that gives a name to Caliban. “Caribbean” also points to a twentieth-century configuration, itself highly contested and contestatory and certainly not yet realized: the Caribbean as an area that might recognize itself through that name as a way of overcoming the disparate conditions of colonization performed by the English, the French, the Dutch, and the Spanish as they carved out the islands for colonial control. The name “Caribbean” might overcome the ongoing divisions between regimes that cling to these initial linguistic differences and that continue to be riven by the tensions among settlers, descendants of slaves brought from Africa, later immigrants from Asia, and native Indians who managed to survive the holocausts visited in some domains but not in all.

In writing from that past, in this present, to a possible future, I follow . . .

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