Academic journal article ARIEL

Producing the Colonial Subject: Romantic Pedagogy and Mimicry in Jamaica Kincaid's Writing

Academic journal article ARIEL

Producing the Colonial Subject: Romantic Pedagogy and Mimicry in Jamaica Kincaid's Writing

Article excerpt

  Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge: it is the
  impassioned expression which is in the countenance of all Science.
  Emphatically may it be said of the Poet, as Shakespeare has said of
  man, 'that he looks before and after.' He is the rock of defence [sic]
  of human nature; an upholder and preserver, carrying everywhere with
  him relationship and love. In spite of difference of soil and climate,
  of landscape and manners, of laws and customs, in spite of things
  silently gone out of mind and things violently destroyed, the Poet
  binds together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human
  society, as it is spread over the whole earth, and over all time.
  (Wordsworth "Preface" 259)

  It is out of season to question at this time of day, the original
  policy of a conferring on every colony of the British Empire a mimic
  representation of the British Constitution. But if the creature so
  endowed has sometimes forgotten its real significance and under the
  fancied importance of speakers and maces, and all the paraphernalia
  and ceremonies of the imperial legislature, has dared to defy the
  mother country, she has to thank herself for the folly of conferring
  such privileges on a condition of society that has no earthly claim to
  so exalted a position. A fundamental principle appears to have been
  forgotten or overlooked in our system of colonial policy--that of
  colonial dependence. To give a colony the forms of independence is a
  mockery; she would not be a colony for a single hour if she could
  maintain an independent station. (Cust qtd. in Bhabha 85)

  Still holding me close to her, she said, in a voice that raked across
  my skin, "It doesn't matter what you do or where you go, I'll always
  be your mother and this will always be your home." (Kincaid Annie John
  147)

The intersection of two vectors, the effects of colonial education on Antiguan society and the effects of a mother's love on her daughter, lies at the heart of Jamaica Kincaid's body of writing. (1) Kincaid scholars, however, encounter the persistent problem of how to theorize the relationship of these two forces: the public colonial education that connotes largeness and the political, and the small, private and individualized mother-daughter relationship. (2) This article draws a connection between Kincaid's critiques of colonial pedagogy and her abiding concern over mother-daughter relationships by arguing that these two themes mirror each other through their common origin in the imposition of a mimetic subjectivity.

I chose the epigraphs above to suggest the "binding" nature of Romantic poetry, colonial discourse, and Kincaid's representations of colonial mothering all share claims to authority that are based on an assertion of knowledge about the subjectivity of the other. These three central modes of Kincaid's discourse claim the primacy of the dependence of the "vast Empire of human society" (259), the colonized state, and the colonial child on the mother(land) by defining the relationship in terms of permanence and inevitability because it is warranted by the other's condition. In Kincaid's first novel, Annie John, the mother can no more imagine her children as independent subjects than Sir Edward Cust can imagine the colonies able to govern their own affairs as independent nations. Kincaid's novels, Anne John and Lucy, depict a profound ambivalence in the mother-daughter relationship that stems from the mother's desire to impose her own subjectivity onto the child. Kincaid twins this theme with the view that the canonical Romantic poetry taught in colonial classrooms is fundamentally connected to the ideologies of colonial control. Reading the linkages of these themes reveals that the destructive power of both stems from an imposition of a way of seeing the world on the child's subjectivity.

It should be emphasized at the outset that this investigation involves a particular subset of Romantic poetry which celebrates the canonical male Romantic poet's subjectivity because this is the body of works against which Kincaid's characters react and rebel. …

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