Literature of the Caribbean

Literature of the Caribbean

Literature of the Caribbean

Literature of the Caribbean

Synopsis

The Caribbean is an exotic but not too distant land, full of rich cultural traditions. The literature of the Caribbean reflects the social, political, and cultural concerns of the region and is a valuable tool for learning about the area and its people. This book includes chapters on roughly a dozen contemporary Caribbean writers. Along with plot summaries, these sections discuss major themes and give close attention to how Caribbean culture figures in the writer's texts. To help students conduct further research, each chapter cites works for further reading.

Excerpt

The islands of the Caribbean were Europe’s first colonies in the New World. Inhabited by an aboriginal population of Arawak and Carib Indians, soon to be joined by hundreds of thousands of African slaves, the region would be the site of the world’s first multicultural experiment, the cradle of ethnic and cultural fusion, or syncretism. Discovered by Christopher Columbus on behalf of the Spanish crown in 1492, the islands were not ruled unchallenged by Spain for very long. By the final decades of the sixteenth century, other European powers, thirsting after the riches in gold, silver, spices, and sugar flowing to Spain from its Caribbean and American colonies, had begun to contest its hegemony over the area that would become known as the West Indies. By the early years of the seventeenth century, England, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Denmark had taken control of sundry territories in the New World, establishing colonies of their own and bringing their languages, distinct cultures, different religious practices, and particular institutions to the Caribbean cultural mix.

Different as these European powers were in language and culture, they were joined together in their common objective: that of establishing a Caribbean economy based on the development of sugarcane plantations dependent on African slave labor. A very profitable triangular trade was soon established: ships laden with European goods left the ports of London, the Hague, Lisbon, and Cádiz bound for the Caribbean, while others followed the African coast in search of slave traders, reaching the West Indies with their human cargo depleted by the ravages of the Middle Passage. These same ships would return to Europe with their cargos of gold, silver, sugar . . .

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