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The other side of the mirror: utopian and heterotopian space in Kamau Brathwaite's "DreamStories."

DreamStories (1994) is a collection of prose pieces by Barbadian-born poet and critic Kamau Brathwaite. This paper attempts to illuminate Brathwaite's notion of dreaming with Ernst Bloch's idea of daydreaming developed in The Principle of Hope (1959), where it functions as a prerequisite for the creation of utopian space, and with Michel Foucault's concept of heterotopia as a form of anti-space. Since there are a number of parallels between Brathwaite's social concerns and Bloch's idea of Heimat (homeland), both of which will be elaborated on below, this article attempts to investigate whether Brathwaite's DreamStories is a work of utopian vision, i.e. whether it succeeds in bridging the gap between the individual act of dreaming and the creation of utopian space in the social realm (which for Bloch is necessary for the achievement of Heimat), or whether it is an example of heterotopian anti-space. My investigation will focus on the third story, "Dream Crabs."

The title DreamStories suggests that the process of fictionalization functions in the same way as Freudian dream work. In The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud argues that dreams encode real-life events (the dream thought) in dream images (the dream content), whose decoding in turn can initiate a process of healing. Freud's dream theory corresponds in part to Brathwaite's own perception of dreaming and the writing of DreamStories, which he perceives as a process of healing and resurrection. DreamStories is a fictional reworking of three traumatic instances that he experienced between 1986 and 1990. These instances are recorded in what can be called an autobiographical trilogy, The Zea Mexican Diary (1993), Shar (1990), and Trench Town Rock (1992/1994), where Brathwaite documents the death of his wife, Mexican, in 1986; the destruction of his house in Jamaica by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988; and the burglary of his apartment in Kingston in 1990. The dream process of healing leads on from what Brathwaite perceives as his metaphorical death by a "ghost bullet" in Trench Town Rack after one of the burglars pulls the trigger of an unloaded gun:
   Look! it means I undergo some strange kinda
   resurrection from that mo. It doan make me no kinda
   better poet or anything like that--But since I'm died, a
   strange set of circumstances begin to make themselves
   shall we say "possible." And I be gin to dream, stepping
   on these stones of pearl and peril, back into each early
   morning, re/living, re/learning ... is where and how, I
   suppose, I begin to restore the fragments ... of my
   infernal psyche. These constant ?curative haunts that--for
   some reason--a kind of like compulsion, as if
   I.. blind, am following the shadow of i/self, x/self,
   now truly decaffinated into dream; and I begin to write
   down and improvize from the write-down--these
   "dreams"--gleams--"gleanings"--which become--not
   the dream(s) as such but the process emerging from
   the dream(s)--become the fluid basis of what I regard
   as my first major work since these crises--so ?different
   from Arrivants and Ancestors, and yet still part of
   them, part of this long Saharan journey. (Brathwaite,
   Conversations with Nathaniel Mackey 164-65)

Nineteen eighty-six, the year of his wife's death, is an important watershed in Brathwaite's personal life, which is reflected in the change of style his writing then began to undergo. Whereas his pre-1986 poetry and criticism are fairly conventional in form and content--dealing mainly with issues of decolonization and the formation of an African-Caribbean consciousness--his writing after 1986 moves into what Homi Bhabha has termed the "realm of the beyond" (1). It becomes more daring in form and style, experimenting with font sizes and page formats, creating what Brathwaite calls his "video style," which relies strongly on the visual effect of the word on the page. His work also begins to cross generic boundaries, fusing criticism with poetry and fiction. (1) It becomes, in other words, a "borderline work of culture" (Bhabha 7). June Bobb points out the particular global vision of Brathwaite's recent work: "His vision moves beyond the insular to the global, thus hinting at the possibility of unity in diversity, with the Caribbean as the crucible for such experimentation" (11). Bobb's definition of Brathwaite's global vision of creolization, the possibility of unity in diversity, also describes Bloch's notion of the "multiverse of cultures." (2)

In Chapter 15 of his Tubinger Einleitung in die Philosophie I (Tubingen Introduction to Philosophy I), Bloch uses the term "Multiversum der Kulturen" ("multiverse of cultures"; my translation) to describe the world as experiment (176). In connection with this description, he reappropriates the notion of progress, arguing that progress implies the movement of all of humanity towards Heimat. He argues that the idea of progress has been abused by the West to justify imperialism and the notion of cultural superiority. Consequently, progress, with a purely Western orientation and interpretation, fails. What is needed instead, so Bloch argues, is an experimental approach to the idea of progress, opening it to the utopian possibility of Heimat. Due to the diversity of cultures that inhabit the globe, the movement towards utopia manifests itself in diverse ways. Bloch's notion of the "multiverse of cultures" embodies "einen ... polyrhythmischen wie polyphonen Verlauf des Fortschritts" ("a polyrhythmic and polyphonic movement of progress"; my translation) (200) towards the "many-voiced unity" of a utopian world (The Principle of Hope 969).

The "multiverse of cultures" is an alternative expression for Brathwaite's own concept of a "creole cosmos." He describes this idea in relation to his long poem X/Self: "the poem is really 'about' two forces seeking to find a balance in what I regard as a new or creole cosmos, a cosmos which in fact begins to 'perdict' ... the dissolution ... of empire(s)" (Brathwaite, Conversations 117). Brathwaite makes clear that this dissolution of empires, which includes the dissolution of neo-colonial dependencies, can only be achieved if the dominating and the dominated abandon their antagonistic discourse and "come into some conversation with each othe(r); into some relationship of 'true' balance and equilibrium" (Conversations 119). The "multiverse of cultures" in dialogue is the prerequisite for the beginning of Heimat.

For Bloch, Heimat designates humanity's "feeling at home in existence" (The Principle of Hope 1196). It signifies an instance of arrival rather than origin. Thus it has global rather than national, regional, or ethnic dimensions. Bloch gives no specific information as to what this utopian state will or should look like, as his philosophy stresses the notion of openness and dynamic development in order to avoid rigid totalitarian structures. However, Bloch does provide an abstract framework for the definition of utopia as a state of communion
   in which subject and object have simultaneously ceased
   to be separate. The subject has ceased with its truest
   attribute: the desiderium; the object has ceased with its
   untruest attribute: alienation. This arriving is victory,
   and the goddess of victory, the ancient Nike, stands on
   a point: a concentration of Being, brought out and
   gathered in and to the Humanum. At this place on earth
   of arrived-at being, of world as homeness, homeness as
   world, it settles down, here both flight and message end.

Brathwaite has a similar notion of home, since, historically, the Caribbean is a place of arrival rather than origin. As a result of the extermination of the Amerindians in the sixteenth century, today's Caribbean island populations consist of ethnic groups that have migrated to the archipelago from elsewhere, either by force or of their own free will. For Brathwaite, the Caribbean becomes home when people regard themselves as native to the region, as having arrived in the New World rather than originating in the Old. He regards these instances of "arrived-at being" as creole, hybrid, or cross-cultural rather than racially "pure" identities. In an age of global migration, the Caribbean becomes a model, a utopian "Front" space beyond whose horizon lies the promise of "the world as homeness" (Front being Bloch's term for the "foremost segment of history, ... even when it concerns itself with the past, namely with the still undischarged future in the past" [200]). DreamStories expresses the desire to feel at home both in an existential and a geographical sense.

In a letter to Gordon Rohlehr, Brathwaite describes DreamStories as "a kind of RIFT VALLEY in my senscape after the psychic disaster slippages of Mexican (86) Shar (88) TTR (90)" (Letter to Gordon Rohlehr iii). Brathwaite derives this metaphor from the geological phenomenon known as the Great Rift Valley of East Africa, his mind returning to the continent of his ancestors for spiritual sustenance. In Feeling the Spirit: Searching the World for the People of Africa, African-American photographer Chester Higgins Jr. documents a journey undertaken to trace African heritage throughout the world. He begins his search in the highlands of north-central Ethiopia that overlook the Great Rift Valley where the world's oldest human skeletal remains have been found. As a response to these finds, Higgins calls the Great Rift Valley "a most ancient place" (10).

In DreamStories, Brathwaite undertakes an inner journey to the "most ancient place" or root of his trauma, where he relives Mexican's death and the destruction of his house but also finds spiritual sustenance as Mexican and his new muse and partner Dream Chad merge with Sycorax, Caliban's mother in Shakespeare's The Tempest, who for Brathwaite is the guardian of spiritual knowledge and possesses the power of healing. Brathwaite's "most ancient place" of trauma is also a place of healing precisely because it exposes him to trauma. Freud maintains that whereas in our waking life we often seek to repress painful memories (as well as desires tabooed by society), we give expression to them in dreams. Moreover, since the act of dreaming is a retreat into the most remote parts of the psyche, it can be read as an extreme form of individual isolation, and Brathwaite himself experiences it as such in the wake of his separation from family and society recorded in The Zea Mexican Diary, Shar, and Trench Town Rock. In DreamsStories, as in his autobiographical writing, Brathwaite links his own personal anguish to the suffering in the contemporary Caribbean as well as that of his slave ancestors, thus establishing a continuity between the region's colonial past and its present situation of neo-colonial dependence. In this sense, Brathwaite journeys back not only to the "most ancient place" of his own pain but also to that of Caribbean history itself.

Despite their dreamlike quality and relative opacity, the individual dream stories are not merely recordings of dreams, but represent the dream as text. Although Freud, too, regards the dream as a text that contains meaning which can be decoded, the Freudian night dream is not the product of the conscious ego. Originating in actual dreams, DreamStories occupies a conceptual space between Freudian dream work (the reworking of actual events through the medium of the unconscious) and literature (whose structure and style are deliberate). For Bloch, literature has utopian potential in that it can function as a vision of a better world. Dreaming, in turn, is the unstructured preliminary activity to the structured process of the production of literature. In contrast to Freud, Bloch regards the daydream as the more important aspect of dreaming because it involves a creative ego that can envision something that has not yet become conscious in a community. Freud's nocturnal dreaming, on the other hand, has recourse only to what is not conscious anymore. Thus Freud denies the future orientation of dreams altogether, confining their work to the past. Moreover, whereas Freud's dream work is an individual activity, Bloch's daydreaming has the potential to acquire communal dimensions in that daydreaming can conceive a utopian world that may be shared and in turn realized within the public space. In this sense, daydreaming creates utopian space within the already existing space of the present. Ultimately, Bloch regards the daydreaming ego as liberating--capable of transcending any social censorship--whereas Freud's ego functions as the agent of a cultural censor, repressing desires and forms of behavior that society regards as unacceptable:
   The ego is always preserved here with its adult power,
   as unified adult experience of conscious mental
   processes; furthermore: the guiding image is present of
   what a man would like to be and become in utopian
   terms. It differs precisely on this point from the night-dream
   ego.... As we remember, in Freud the night-dream
   ego only remains sufficiently present to compel
   the hallucinated wish-fulfilments to disguise themselves
   from its gaze; thus it practises moral censorship, even if
   it is patchy. Whereas the ego of the waking dream is
   neither deposed, nor does it practise censorship against
   the often unconventional content of its wishes. On the
   contrary: the censorship here is not merely weakened
   and patchy as in the night-dream, rather it completely
   ceases despite the entirely undiminished strength of the
   daydream ego, indeed because of it. It ceases precisely
   because of the wishful idea which seizes the daydream
   ego and in fact strengthens or at least dresses it up. In
   contrast to night-dreams therefore, in daydreams there
   is no censorship whatsoever by a moral ego; rather,
   their utopistically intensified ego builds itself and what
   belongs to it into a castle in the air in an often amazingly
   carefree blue. (The Principle of Hope 90-91)

In terms of Freudian and Blochian notions of dreaming, DreamStories is a hybrid form. The stories show aspects of Freudian night dreaming in that they perform a journey into Brathwaite's unconscious to release the pain caused by his loss. On the other hand, the stories are also the product of a conscious act of writing and rewriting, which transports them away from the realm of the unconscious. Moreover, the contextualizing of Brathwaite's individual experience within Caribbean history makes them a tool for detecting, if not on a global, then at least on a regional scale, "how bad the world is" and "how good it could be if it were otherwise" (Bloch, The Principle of Hope 95). However, DreamStories does not offer a world-order model comparable to the "creole cosmos." It rather presents a fractured world or the fragments of a shattered mind. Rather than an enduring political vision, there are utopian moments that create alternative spaces within an existing socio-cultural structure. The stories can, therefore, be said to create heterotopian spaces.

In his essay "Of Other Spaces" (1986), Michel Foucault argues that heterotopias and utopias are sites that subvert or invert a given socio-cultural norm. They are sites "that have the curious property of being in relation to all other sites, but in such a way as to suspect, neutralize, or invert the set of relations that they happen to designate, mirror, or reflect" (24). Consequently, although "[t]hese spaces ... are linked with all the others," they "contradict all the other sites" (24). For Foucault, utopias and heterotopias differ in so far as utopias are unreal places that literally exist nowhere, whereas heterotopias are real places whose location can be determined:
   Utopias are sites with no real place. They are sites that
   have a general relation or direct or inverted analogy with
   the real space of Society. They present society itself in a
   perfected form, or else society turned upside down, but
   in any case these utopias are fundamentally unreal

      There are also, probably in every culture, in
   every civilization, real places--places that do exist and
   that are formed in the very founding of society--which
   are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively
   enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real
   sites that can be found within the culture, are
   simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted.
   Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though
   it may be possible to indicate their location in reality.
   Because these places are absolutely different from all
   the sites that they reflect and speak about, I shall call
   them, by way of contrast to utopias, heterotopias. (24)

Reading Bloch alongside Foucault, the above statement could be modified as follows: utopias occupy the space of the future, illuminating the present from the vantage point of that future. Thus they are "unbecome" rather than unreal. Heterotopias, on the other hand, are situated in the present and exist parallel to other social spaces. Foucault rejects the separation of time into past, present, and future altogether, describing such separation as a characteristic of nineteenth-century thinking. The twentieth century, on the other hand, he terms "the epoch of simultaneity": "We are at a moment, I believe, when our experience of the world is less that of a long life developing through time than that of a network that connects points and intersects with its own skein" (22). As opposed to utopias, however, heterotopias depend on the master discourse of a societal norm. They function, as Antonio Benitez-Rojo argues in The Repeating Island: The Caribbean and the Postmodern Perspective as "anti-discursive (anti-Utopian) space ... where the Other resides" (141). In this sense, heterotopias do not break out of the binary opposition of self and other that Brathwaite's utopian vision of a "creole cosmos" seeks to overcome.

However, the heterotopian spaces created in DreamStories are not entirely spaces "where everything is hopelessly confused" (Benitez-Rojo 141), which is how Benitez-Rojo characterizes them. They do not, as suggested above, belong entirely to the sphere of the Freudian night dream in that they do have an element of discourse, of the ego's creative daydreaming. For Benitez-Rojo, discursivity becomes synonymous with utopia, showing "a common organizing center, or an origin, or Logos, or universe ... that we have constructed with a story spun by our desires in the discourse of language" (141). DreamStories can perhaps best be understood as being situated at the intersection of utopia and heterotopia, the mirror:
   The mirror is, after all, a utopia, since it is a placeless
   place. In the mirror, I see myself there where I am not,
   in an unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the
   surface; I am over there, there where I am not, a sort of
   shadow that gives my own visibility to myself, that
   enables me to see myself there where I am absent: such
   is the utopia of the mirror. But it is also a heterotopia in
   so far as the mirror does exist in reality, where it exerts a
   sort of counteraction on the position that I occupy.
   From the standpoint of the mirror I discover my
   absence from the place where I am since I see myself
   over there. Starting from this gaze that is, as it were,
   directed toward me, from the ground of this virtual
   space that is on the other side of the glass, I come back
   towards myself; I begin again to direct my eyes toward
   myself and to reconstitute myself there where I am.
   (Foucault 24)

The movement into the realm of the mirror, into the "over there," from where the gaze is directed out into the "here," is the movement of the texts in DreamStories.

In Voodoo belief, on which Brathwaite draws extensively throughout his work, the mirror is the dividing line between the world of the living and the world of the dead and the loa, the Voodoo gods. (3) In this context, Brathwaite's travelling to the other side of the mirror can be read as "following the shadow of i/self," the victim of the ghost bullet, into the afterworld. Thus DreamStories is an account of how Brathwaite sees himself and the Caribbean from the vantage point of death. Journeys to the other side of the mirror, the realm of death, occur again within individual texts, although the whole of DreamStories can be read as such a journey.

"Dream Crabs" begins with a sense of communion and a feeling of "arrived-at being": "And so at last we went down into this deep bay like it was River Bay only the slides of the cliff were higher and it was dark like at River Bay & there was this eternal sound of the snake of the sea for the three of us--& you I know) were happy to be there as if you had at last found a home somewhere where you were so glad to come to ..." (Brathwaite, DreamStories 74). In the context of journeying into death, the island is reminiscent of the Elysian Fields, the island of the blessed in Greek mythology. In a more autobiographical context, the island is St Lucia, where Brathwaite and Mexican lived "among the gushin(g) Pitons of that vulcan island drowsed in trees" in 1962 when Brathwaite was employed at the extramural department of the University of the West Indies (DreamStories 75). Prior to that, Brathwaite lived in Ghana, West Africa, where he worked for the Ministry of Education. In this sense, the island reflects the poet's vision of the Caribbean as a place of arrival after the journey into the African past, the "most ancient place" of the African-Caribbean self. As his first home in the Caribbean after his stay in Ghana, St Lucia is also his "first tropical oceanic landfall since Goree" (DreamStories 75). Goree is an island off the coast of Senegal. In slave-trading times, its castle was used as a dungeon to "store" slaves from all over Africa before transporting them to the New World. In this sense, St Lucia was also the first landfall since Goree for some of the slaves. In "Dream Crabs," Brathwaite fuses personal and communal memory, implying that the Caribbean is a place of arrival after forced migration but has, at the same time, the potential of Heimat, transforming the dream island into a utopian space that is linked to the mythical island of Atlantis:
   the concorde flies in w/ that same simple brightened
   edge of early morning . coming in like pale heron or a
   flying snake out of Atlantis . its lean mkonde neck
   already > leaning down towards the airport . the tide
   low & the fisherman up to his knees . in both continents
   of firefly water . looking up sometimes > shading his
   invisible eyes from the blue or gold or grey breaking of
   the sound barrier . depending on the stare . of sky over
   the flickering ree(f). (DreamStories 75-76)

In "History, the Caribbean Writer and X/Self" (1990), Brathwaite describes Atlantis, situated halfway between the Caribbean and Africa, as belonging to the Caribbean archipelago but having become submerged in the ocean and in the memory of the Caribbean people:
   We in the Caribbean had this strange memory, it seems,
   of an Atlantis which had disappeared, and the waves
   that washed upon the shores whispered words like
   "Atlantis" which we heard but couldn't understand.
   And then there was the memory of that tremendous
   catastrophe that had created the island: how the
   mountain range that had run at right angles to the great
   Andean-Rockies chain along the Western continent,
   that ran through Mexico and through Yucatan into the
   Atlantic and perhaps ended in Atlantis, had
   cataclysmically disappeared. The islands that we inhabit
   are in fact the sunken tops of a mountain chain and the
   people who inhabit them have an echo of that
   catastrophe in their memory. It is part of our psyche.

In imagining the Caribbean as having undergone a similar trauma as the landscape of Africa during the formation of the Great Rift Valley, Brathwaite presents the New World as a mirror image of the Old, with Atlantis as the virtual point, the mirror surface, where both converge. (4) Atlantis is both a mythic place, situated in the inaccessible space of the past, here symbolized by its submergence in the Atlantic Ocean, and a utopian space of an Atlantic world, with no location except in the minds of European, African, and Caribbean societies. In this virtual space of Atlantis the "creole cosmos" is realized. In this sense, Atlantis, the dream island, is a symbol of the longing for Heimat on both sides of the Atlantic.

The flying snake that the Concorde becomes as well as the sea snake at the beginning of the story echoes the Voodoo serpent deities Damballah and Ayida:
   [Damballah] is shown as a snake, arched in the path that
   the sun travels across the sky; sometimes half the arch is
   composed of his female counterpart, Ayida, the
   rainbow. He is patron of the waters of the heaven
   which he dominates, and of the springs and rivers
   which the heavenly waters nourish and upon which the
   race forever nurses.... Damballah and Ayida, who
   together represent the sexual totality, encompass the
   cosmos as a serpent coiled about the world. (Deren

The union of the serpents is the divine answer to human questing, the utopian instance of "arrived-at being." For Brathwaite, this union of the serpents is a Caribbean phenomenon whereas in their ancestral African home, Ouidah (also spelled Wydah or Wedo) in Dahomey, West Africa, they are two separate deities. In Gods of the Middle Passage (1982), he describes their union as a form of creolization in which the sky serpent Damballah merges with the rainbow Ayida:
   Damballa Wedo ... is generally recognized as the
   husband of Ayida Wedo (=Dahomey), though
   occasionally--and this occasion is part of the New
   World process of re/foundation trans/formation--the
   two--divine androgyny--are merged into Damballa-Ayida.
   In both Haiti and Wedo, Damballa (Da/mballa)
   is "identified with the rainbow and is symbolized as a
   snake." (6)

As rainbow, Damballah becomes a symbol of migration across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World.

The fisherman in the above passage, with one foot in each continent, is a mirror image of the Concorde that is Damballah, the flying snake or sky serpent. In "Dream Crabs," Damballah comes directly "out of Atlantis," which makes the Atlantic island overlap with Guinee, the abode of the loa. The Concorde's "mkonde neck" echoes the Mkonde Plateau, which is part of the East African Rift System. The Concorde travels from this "most ancient place" of the African people to their new home in the Americas, thus spanning a history of African migration that Brathwaite elsewhere describes as beginning in Egypt long before the Middle Passage. Since the Rift Valley contains the oldest human remains, it is also the "most ancient place" from which humanity set off on its migration through history. In this sense, Damballah mirrors humanity's quest for Heimat, pointing from the past into the future towards humanity's state of "feeling at home in existence."

Through the image of Damballah, Brathwaite links Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean in the virtual space of Atlantis. Throughout his writing, Brathwaite refers to Damballah as Grand Chemin. In Voodoo cosmology, the Grand Chemin is "the great road leading from the mortal to the divine world" (Deren 98). It is also "the celestial arc of the sun's path" (98) and Damballah, too, is "arched in the path that the sun travels across the sky" (115). For Brathwaite, Damballah becomes the Grand Chemin of cultural traffic from the Old World to the New and from the past into the future, a quality Maya Deren, too, ascribes to him: "Damballah is himself unchanged by life, and so is at once the ancient past and the assurance of the future" (115). In this sense, he represents both that which is not conscious anymore and that which has not yet become conscious--and so embodies the principle of utopia.

The union of Damballah and Ayida is mirrored in the union of Mexican and Brathwaite's dreaming self on the dream island and is depicted in the communion of eating a meal of crabs "to celebrate that you at last seemed happy and at home" (DreamStories 77). However, the vision of "arrived-at being" established in the story is interspersed with foreboding, signalling the end of happiness and communion: "w(e) live for one full happy passion-fruit & pomme cythere year until our ti noir puppy brake it leg & die of the most brilliant colours I have ever seen ..." (DreamStories 75). Perhaps the dying of the puppy, which may be identical with the third persona who arrives on the island together with the couple and remains unnamed, destroys the Edenic peace of the dream, as does the eating of the crabs, "our assassin fingers enjoying them" (DreamStories 77).

In the context of Voodoo belief, the cosmic totality is also, and mainly so, represented by the divine twins, the Marassa, who are always accompanied by a third principle, which represents the union of the two: "The Twins are not to be separated into competitive, conflicting dualism. In Voudoun one and one make three; ... for the and of the equation is the third ... part, ... the relationship which makes all the parts meaningful" (Deren 41). The couple in "Dream Crabs" is, therefore, also a mirror image of the Marassa, the death of the third persona or principle representing the severance of their unity brought about by Mexican's death. The poet's dreaming self experiences this severance as an expulsion from Eden or Atlantis, as fall from immortality and eternal happiness. In the context of the biblical Fall, the sea snake and the sky serpent echo the serpent who offers the forbidden fruit (the crabs suggest themselves as this forbidden fruit) and so destroys the third principle, the union of humanity with God. Thus the snake symbol becomes ambivalent and loses its utopian connotation.

The journey to the other side of the mirror that is exercised in DreamStories can be read as a journey from individual fragmentation and incompleteness towards psychic wholeness. Bloch conceives of the incompleteness of the self as utopian possibility. He regards the self as inherently dynamic, subject to change and thus freedom of expression: "The ego is to be retained but not the so-called unity of person of which the bourgeois individual was so proud.... No ego is already so fixed in what it is and what it can do that its core cannot be renewed, that it cannot surprise itself at its edges; or else it becomes its own epitaph" (The Principle of Hope 970). For Bloch, the fragmentary nature of human existence as it expresses itself in art and literature points towards utopian wholeness:
   Man is still not solid, the course of the world is still
   undecided, unclosed, and so also is the depth in all
   aesthetic information: this utopian factor is the paradox in
   aesthetic immanence, the most fundamentally immanent
   paradox in this immanence itself. Without such potency for
   the fragment, aesthetic imagination would of course have
   sufficient perception in the world, more than any other
   human apperception, but it would ultimately have no
   correlate. For the world itself, just as it is in a mess, is also
   in a state of unfinishedness and in experimental process
   out of that mess. The shapes which this process throws
   up, the ciphers, allegories, symbols in which it is so rich,
   are all themselves still fragments, real fragments, through
   which process streams unclosed and advances dialectically to
   further fragmentary forms. (The Principle of Hope 221)

The fractured selves in DreamStories represent such instances of unfinishedness, as does the fragmentary nature of the stories themselves. Both the stories and the characters within them are ciphers in the Blochian sense, exhibiting a desire for wholeness. Bloch's fragment is, therefore, "an ultimately revocable fragment" (The Principle of Hope 221). However, in DreamStories, the journey towards wholeness fails. The return from the other side of the mirror into the "over here," where change can take place on a communal scale, is made only reluctantly. Utopian vision remains confined to the heterotopian space of the dream, its gaze turned to the past and focused on personal loss. Bloch's utopian world overcomes the dualistic opposition of individual and collective in a third element, which at once preserves and transcends both:
   The third element which circulates dialectically in both
   and which preserves and enhances each, this living
   synthesis is in itself nothing but the classless
   collective.... But it is new, classless, and open-utopian,
   so that partial individuals, partial collective can no
   longer appear in dualistically reified form, as rigid
   equivalents. This synthesis between individuals and
   collective ... represents the triumph of community,
   therefore the absolute side of society; but this triumph
   is equally the salvation of the individual. (The Principle of
   Hope 972)

The "salvation of the individual" is achieved in the "identity of the We with its self and with its world" (The Principle of Hope 973), which is Heimat. With their reluctance to return from the other side of the mirror, the dream space of the "I," the characters in DreamStories do not overcome the binary opposition of "I" and "we," the "we" being located on this side of the mirror divide, and the book does not achieve a vision of the "creole cosmos" as a collective instance of Heimat.


(1) DreamStories is a work from the video-style period and experiments with fonts and formats, which I have not reproduced here due to editorial conventions. As Brathwaite uses an Apple Mac computer for most of his work, the fonts are also difficult to reproduce.

(2) The concept of "cultural creolizaton" is derived from the polyglossic nature of the creole language. In Caribbean Man in Space and Time: A Bibliographical and Conceptual Approach (1974), Brathwaite defines creolization as "a process, resulting in subtle and multiform orientations from or towards [sic] ancestral originals": "In this way, Caribbean culture can be seen in terms of a dialectic of development taking place within a seamless guise or continuum of space and time; a model which allows for blood flow, fluctuations, the half-look, the look both/several ways; which allows for and contains the ambiguous, and rounds the sharp edges off the dichotomy" (7). The idiosyncratic "twoards" implies both the notion of "moving towards" and of "two ways," indicating that creolization is not a hegemonic but a two-fold process, each partner in dialogue moving towards the other. The Martiniquan poet and critic Edouard Glissant refers to creolization as a form of "cultural cross-fertilization" (Caribbean Discourse: Selected Essays 46n4).

(3) For Brathwaite, Voodoo and other forms of African-Caribbean spirituality are of vital importance because of their inclusive rather than exclusive fusing of African, Christian, and--some critics say--even Amerindian religious practices. In Brathwaite's writing, Voodoo often emerges as an alternative consciousness, undermining or balancing out the totalizing discourses of European hegemony.

(4) "Eastern Africa":
   Too rigid for folding to take place, the platform on
   which eastern Africa rests has been buckled by
   subterranean forces into broad basin-and-swell
   structures hundred of miles across. Associated with
   these tensional forces, extensive faulting has raised and
   lowered vast blocks of land, leaving prominent
   escarpments between them, and extruded lavas have
   formed elevated plateaus and have spread across the
   plains as well as forming numerous volcanoes. The
   most striking of these features is the East African Rift
   System, of which the main branch, known as the
   Eastern Rift Valley or Great Rift Valley, extends from
   the junction of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden,
   crosses the summit of two centres of uplift in Ethiopia
   and Kenya, and enters northern Tanzania, where it
   largely disappears only to reappear in the south of that
   country in the lake Nyasa trough (Lake Nyasa is also
   known as Lake Malawi). (para. 1 of 2)

Works Cited

Benitez-Rojo, Antonio. The Repeating Island: The Caribbean and the Postmodern Perspective (La Isla que se Repite: el Caribe y la perspectiva postmoderna, 1989). Trans. James Maraniss. 2nd ed. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1996.

Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994.

Bloch, Ernst. The Principle of Hope. 3 vols. Trans. Neville Plaice, Stephen Plaice, and Paul Knight. Cambridge: MIT P, 1995.

--. Tubinger Einleitung in die Philosophie I. Frankfurt am Main, Ger.: Suhrkamp, 1963.

Bobb, June D. Beating a Restless Drum: The Poetics of Kamau Brathwaite and Derek Walcott. Trenton, NJ: Africa World P, 1998.

Brathwaite, Kamau. Caribbean Man in Space and Time: A Bibliographical and Conceptual Approach. Mona, Jamaica: Savacou, 1974.

--. Conversations with Nathanie/Mackey. Staten Island, NY: We P, 1999.

--. DreamStories. Harlow, Essex, Eng.: Longman, 1994.

--. Gods of the Middle Passage. Mona, Jamaica: Savacou, 1982.

-- "History, the Caribbean Writer and X/Self." Crisis and Creativity in the New Literatures in English. Ed. Geoffrey V. Davies and Hena Maes-Jelinek.. Cross/Cultures: Readings in the Post/Colonial Literatures in English 1. Amsterdam, Neth.: Rodopi, 1990. 23-45.

--. Letter to Gordon Rohlehr. November 13, 1993. Gordon Rohlehr. "Dream Journeys." Introd. to DreamStories, by Kamau Brathwaite. Harlow, Essex, Eng.: Longman, 1994. iii-xvi.

--. Shar/Hurricane Poem. Mona, Jamaica: Savacou, 1990.

--. Trench Town Rock. Providence: Lost Roads, 1994.

--. X/Self. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1987.

--. The Zea Mexican Diary 7 Sept 1926--7 Sept 1986. Fwd. Sandra Pouchet Paquet. Wisconsin Studies in American Autobiography. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1993.

Deren, Maya. Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti. 1953. Introd. Joseph Campbell. New York: McPherson, Documentext, 1970.

"Eastern Africa." Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. 2004. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 6 May 2004 < article?eu=114631>.

Foucault, Michel. "Of Other Spaces." Diacritics 16.1 (Spring 1986): 22-27.

Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams. 1899. Trans. Joyce Cricks. Introd. Ritchie Robertson. Oxford World's Classics. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999.

Glissant, Edouard. Caribbean Discourse: Selected Essays. (Le Discours Antillais, 1981). Trans. and introd. Michael Dash. Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1992.

Higgins, Jr., Chester. Feeling the Spirit: Searching the World for the People of Africa. New York: Bantam, 1994.
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Author:Otto, Melanie
Publication:Utopian Studies
Article Type:Critical Essay
Date:Jan 1, 2005
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