Writing in Limbo: Modernism and Caribbean Literature

By Simon Gikandi | Go to book overview

6 Writing after Colonialism: Crick Crack, Monkey and Beka Lamb

In national allegories, women became the territory over which the quest for (male) national identity passed, or, at best . . . the space of loss and of all that lies outside the male games of rivalry and revenge. . . . Under those circumstances, a national identity could not but be a problematic terrain for women novelists, although it was not something they could avoid.

-- Jean Franco, Plotting Women

When yuh succumb to certain tings in silence yuh build up di power of di oppressor to exploit a next person.

-- Sistren, Lionheart Gal

To consider the question of gender and subjectivity in modernist discourse is also to confront the ambiguous role women play in the construction of national identity. I have already hinted at this ambiguity in the previous chapters: in the central (male) texts of Caribbean modernism women either signify the social space over which the colonizer and the colonized struggle or function as what Franco, in the epigraph above, calls a space of loss. In many of the novels discussed earlier, women are often confined to private spaces, largely excluded-- like Sophia in Carpentier El siglo--from the historical events that obsess and overdetermine the men's lives and experiences. Alternatively, as in the case of Lamming In the Castle of My Skin, while the figure of the mother represents the utopian space of the nation, of

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