Traditional Folklore and the Question of History in Erna Brodber's Louisiana

By Dagnini, Jeremie Kroubo | Journal of Pan African Studies, December 2011 | Go to article overview

Traditional Folklore and the Question of History in Erna Brodber's Louisiana


Dagnini, Jeremie Kroubo, Journal of Pan African Studies


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Introduction

Born on April 20, 1940 in Louisiana, a small town located in the parish of St Mary in Jamaica, Erna Brodber grew up in a family who took an active part in the community affairs of their small town. As a brilliant scholar, she gained a Bachelor of Arts, a Master of Science and a Ph.D. from the University of the West Indies (UWI), located in Mona, Jamaica. Before focusing on writing, Erna Brodber held different positions such as teacher, sociology lecturer and staff member of the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER). While at the ISER, she worked to collect elders' oral stories in rural Jamaica, which partly inspired her third novel entitled Louisiana (1).

Like Brodber's previous works, Jane and Louisa Will Soon Come (2) and Myal (3), Louisiana explores the various facets of the Caribbean and African-American experiences.

In the 1930s, the protagonist of the novel, Ella Townsend, a graduate African-American student of anthropology whose roots are Jamaican, is sent to the American state of Louisiana by President Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration (WPA) program to research Louisiana folk life through a series of interviews.

Thus, she intends to tape record the memories and cultural habits of African-American elders. But, her primary informant, an old matriarch named Mammy King, dies only two weeks after the beginning of the project. However, from the hereafter, Mammy King still continues to convey messages via the tape recorder, seeing the student as the medium that would enable her to be released from her life. At first, the academically minded Ella Townsend finds it hard to believe in this mystical connection of the living and the dead. But as time elapses, she gradually changes her mind, discovering enriching mysteries about the past lives of Mammy and of her dead Jamaican friend Lowly, including stories of migrations between people coming from the African Diaspora as well as political anecdotes dealing with Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). From this supernatural experience, Ella Townsend also learns a lot about herself and her own history.

Thus, Louisiana not only pays a tribute to the folk life and the Afro-Caribbean cults of Voodoo, Obeah (witchcraft) and Myal (an Afro-Caribbean religion in which music, nature and the mystical connection of the living and the dead play a significant role), but it also tackles the question of history, including the themes of displacement and of Marcus Garvey's Pan-African ideology. Brodber positions her fiction on cultural, anthropological and historical parallels. Indeed, like most of her counterparts, the Caribbean writer has recourse to what Linda Hutcheon calls "historiographic metafiction." (4)

This paper is aimed at studying these particular points, namely traditional folklore and the question of history in Erna Brodber's Louisiana.

Traditional Folklore

Like a number of Caribbean writers, Erna Brodber draws her inspiration from the rural black folklore when writing her novels. In Louisiana, like in her two previous works, Brodber examines numerous aspects of the Caribbean and African-American folk life, among which the oral tradition, the rural southern black dialect, Jamaican Patois, the world of mysticism, Voodoo and traditional folk music.

From the very beginning of the novel, in the Editor's Note, the Jamaican author puts forward the notion of orality, stating that Ella Townsend "was to retrieve the history of the Blacks of South West Louisiana using oral sources." (5) Indeed, as an anthropologist, Ella Townsend is sent to Louisiana to collect oral stories from elders (6). Before going any further, it is important to mention that two main reasons enable us to understand this notion of orality within the African Diaspora. It is both a historical and social phenomenon. First of all, in African societies, oral tradition has been the primary means of conveying culture--history, stories, folktales and religious beliefs--for thousands of years. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Traditional Folklore and the Question of History in Erna Brodber's Louisiana
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.