The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 3

By John Clement Ball | Go to book overview

J

James, C. L. R.
DONALD E. PEASE

C. L. R. James’s writings received little notice during his lifetime outside the Marxist groups with which he was involved. Following his death in 1989, however, his works became crucial benchmarks for scholars in the emergent fields of Cultural Studies, African American Studies, and Postcolonial Studies. The variety of genres he mastered – short story, novel, drama, the memoir, manifesto, historical narrative, newspaper column, journal, letter, philosophical treatise – and the multiple publics he addressed reveal the range and depth of James’s commitments. His various affiliations have challenged readers to engage multiple and often contradictory interpretive strategies in their efforts to endow his career with meaning and coherence.

Cyril Lionel Robert James was born in Tunupuna, Trinidad on January 4, 1901. After graduation from Queen’s Royal College, he wrote short stories, biographical studies of Caribbean political leaders, and reports on cricket for the Port of Spain Gazette. James’s knowledge of cricket provided him with a visa and funding to move to England in 1932. During a six-year stay, he wrote on cricket for the Manchester Guardian and forged friendships with George Padmore, Claude McKay, Paul Robeson, and other founding members of the Pan-African movement, who, like James, used a Marxian analytic framework to explain how categories developed within the Western Enlightenment tradition were deployed to justify colonial conquest. In 1936, James published The Black Jacobins, a magisterial account of the Haitian uprising of 1791 that examined the French Revolution from the perspective of the Caribbean region’s only successful slave revolt, promoting James’s belief that African people had been at the center of the western hemisphere’s most important social and political transformations. The following year, he published the first history of the Trotskyist movement, World Revolution 1917–1936.

Before he established his reputation as a Marxian analyst, however, James was known as a groundbreaking novelist. In Minty Alley (1936b), as in his earlier short stories “La Divina Pastora” (1927) and “Triumph” (1929), James insisted that authentic Caribbean experience be grounded in the region’s historical and geographical context. Minty Alley is the story of Haynes, a young black, middle-class man who observes and becomes involved in the daily life of the ordinary people who live with him at 2 Minty Alley. James experiments with Haynes’s perspective in order to expose the colonial relations that structure his consciousness. The other inhabitants of 2 Minty Alley include the city’s porters, prostitutes, carter-men, washerwomen, and domestic servants who, unlike Haynes, were born into materially impoverished worlds from whose stultifying confines they actively seek escape. Indeed, the barrack yards in which they are holed up bear traces of the garrisons on sugar-producing plantations. James exposes Haynes’s power to define and speak for his fellow boarders as an integral part of colonial domination, which James correlates with colonized people’s inability to express their own subjectivity.

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The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 3
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Editors i
  • The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Literature WWW.Literatureencyclopedia.Com ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Entries vii
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Notes on Contributors to Volume III xv
  • Introduction to Volume III 937
  • A 942
  • B 980
  • C 995
  • D 1034
  • E 1052
  • F 1066
  • G 1094
  • H 1121
  • I 1145
  • J 1154
  • K 1167
  • L 1180
  • M 1198
  • N 1252
  • O 1270
  • P 1277
  • Q 1296
  • R 1300
  • S 1325
  • T 1365
  • U 1370
  • V 1373
  • W 1378
  • Z 1398
  • Index 1400
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