Printer Friendly

Traveling with Joyce: Derek Walcott's discrepant cosmopolitan modernism.

Consider the following description as a question on a final exam in a course on modernist literature:

Please identify the twentieth-century author who was born on an island controlled by the Roman Catholic Church and the British Empire, twin forces that shaped his self--portrait of the artist as a young man. Educated by Irish priests, he was drawn to the mystical ritual of the church but rebelled against its suffocating orthodoxy. Educated in the colonial system, he grew to resent English rule yet cherished the English language and literary tradition. People accused him of forsaking his indigenous language, but he aspired to use English to shape the consciousness of his race. He was haunted by the death of a parent, a death that he could not respond to adequately but that becomes emblematic of his vocation as a writer. It was this vocation that compelled him to flee the provincialism of his island home although he continued to focus on writing about that island.

Two answers could be correct--James Joyce and Derek Walcott. This telling biographical convergence should cause us to reconsider the accepted critical oppositions of modernism/postmodernism and colonialism/postcolonialism. In fact, Walcott responds to Joyce's modernism in increasingly sophisticated ways throughout his career, to the point that he creates a New World cosmopolitan modernism that decolonizes the English literary tradition through mastering it. It is an example that reorients our understanding of the cosmopolitan breadth of modernism, the cross-cultural complexity of postcolonialism, and the growing globalization of twentieth-century literature written in English.

Of course, modernism has long been recognized as a cosmopolitan literary movement. In 1945, Delmore Schwartz declared that T. S. Eliot was an "international hero" (120) and "citizen of the world" (127), and 50 years later, Derek Attridge makes the same claim for James Joyce, describing him as the "most international of writers in English" (ix) and an artist with a "global reputation" (x). Similarly, Fredric Jameson has called for a rewriting of Joyce as a "creole," "multiethnic," "Third World" and "anti-imperialist" writer (302), and several critics have begun to look more closely at Joyce as a postcolonial writer. (1) However, with one notable exception, criticism of Joyce and his modernism has tended to view this cosmopolitanism almost exclusively in terms of the international scope of his allusions rather than in terms of his international influence on subsequent writers. (2) In other words, we know a lot more about Joyce's debt to Homeric myth in Ulysses or to the Egyptian Book of the Dead in Finnegans Wa ke than we know about his significance for contemporary writers from Africa, Asia, or South America. Similarly, postcolonial literature has too often been viewed, by writers and critics alike, as a stripping away of colonial Eurocentricism, including the principles of modernism, to revive indigenous cultural expressions. (3) Walcott rejects this simplified narrative of the postcolonial condition; instead, he splices together the multiple and overlapping legacies of the colonizer and the colonized in the Caribbean to claim the rich diversity of the region's cultural resources while still recognizing the trauma of the colonial experience. Joyce created his cosmopolitan modernism by recasting Ireland's cultural parochialism in the context of Europe's originating myths; Walcott renews and broadens that cosmopolitan modernism by representing how the Caribbean experience has been shaped by the myths and histories of Europe, Africa, and the New World.

Narrow historical or ideological approaches to the literature of the twentieth century unduly limit our understanding of the potential cosmopolitan intersection of modernism and postcolonialism, for they neglect the ways in which modernism's tenets and texts have migrated in the postcolonial world and been changed by the journey Walcott has traveled with Joyce throughout his career, but it is not until Omeros that he is able to successfully navigate this relationship and to create his own New World modernism. Retracing this route deepens our appreciation for the achievement of both writers and encourages us to redraw the critical boundaries that typically map the literature of this century

The Stephen of St. Lucia

In his last year of secondary school at St. Mary's College in St. Lucia, Derek Walcott remembers fondly the "accents" and "recollections" of his teachers, the Irish Brothers of the Presentation, because they summoned for him the atmosphere of his "current hero, the blasphemous, arrogant Stephen Daedalus" ("Leaving School" 31). The parallels come easily to a young colonial man with artistic ambitions, a man born on an island that was controlled politically by the English and spiritually by the Catholic Church, a man who grew up speaking French patois but learned to write poetry in standard English. Walcott remembers resonating with Stephen's paradoxes:

nights of two shilling whores . . . and silently howling remorse, ... hating the Church and loving her rituals, learning to hate England as I worshipped her language, [and] . . . loving the island, and wishing I could get the hell out of it. (32)

In this autobiographical article, Walcott suggests that his choice of heroes was fleeting, but he has often imagined himself as the Stephen of St. Lucia. For example, only two years out of St. Mary's, he publishes an epic, Epitaph for the Young: A Poem in XII Cantos, in which the speaker declares himself, with the full pomposity of an apposition, as "I Stephen" (26). Unfortunately, as Walcott himself recognizes, this Stephen of St. Lucia fails because he cannot master "an armful of traditions in my fumble / For a voice" (27). (4)

He manages his relationship to Joyce more successfully in Another Life, the book-length autobiographical poem that he writes in his late 30s and that grows Out of the earlier autobiographical article and Epitaph for the Young. (5) Walcott continues to draw comparisons between his life and Stephen's, but these comparisons serve more as suggestive structure to the poem rather than as an obtrusive and self-conscious formula. The speaker in Another Life searches for fathers, experiences epiphanies, equates sexual awakening with encountering the muse, resists political nationalism, and finally flees the provincialism of his island home. Walcott appears, however, to remain uncertain about the entire approach. In an earlier prose version of Another Life, Walcott mocks his own ambition:

Reading Joyce, you have, of course. Even Stephen, Son of a pastiche. Some article I read by whatshisnamenow, in a Life and Letters yes, predicting that someday a new Ulysses will come forth out of these emerald, ethnic isles, and sure that he had put his finger on me. Imitation, imitation, when will I be me? (qtd. in Baugh 230)

In a subsequent lyric, "Volcano" (1976), Walcott even considers abandoning this attempt "to repeat or outdo" Joyce and instead become his "ideal reader, ruminative, / voracious" because "at least it requires awe, / which has been lost to our time" (324-25).

Walcott expands on his understanding of Joyce in his influential essay "The Muse of History," which begins with Stephen Dedalus's claim that "history is the nightmare from which I am trying to awake" (36). For Walcott, such a claim might well be made by the great poets of the New World, poets who "remind us of our debt to the great dead, that those who break a tradition first hold it in awe" (36). He then contends that

because their sense of the past is of a timeless, yet habitable, moment, the New World owes them more than it does those who wrestle with the past, for their veneration subtilizes an arrogance which is tougher than violent rejection. They know that by openly fighting tradition we perpetuate it, that revolutionary literature is a filial impulse, and that maturity is the assimilation of the features of every ancestor. . . .These writers reject the idea of history as time for its original concept as myth. (36-37)

In other words, Walcott locates central principles of a modernist aesthetic--the simultaneity of tradition, the defining of artistic maturity as the assimilating of all cultural sources, and the valorization of myth over history--in the New World and then exerts his mastery over these principles by inflecting them with the details of Caribbean life. He adapts modernism's strategies as the best way to achieve the postcolonial ambition of cultural independence.

He describes this relocating and mastering with a variety of terms--mimicry, mongrel, hybrid, reversing--and other postcolonial and Caribbean writers have offered a variety of synonyms--creolization, liminality, chutnification, rhizomes, or metissage. (6) All of these terms describe a method that is a defining feature of modernism, a method of bringing together diverse fragments of a cultural past from a new point of view in order to create a new and self-consciously provisional aesthetic whole and cultural identity. In other words, Walcott freely and selectively reshapes Joyce and modernism--he creolizes them--to establish a New World cultural identity; in the process, he creates a vibrant and complementary modernist poetic. He does not successfully embody this idea in his poetry until Omeros, but it represents the key to understanding Walcott's relationship to Joyce in particular and to re-examining the relationship between modernism and postcolonialism in general.

Creolization, mimicry, and discrepant cosmopolitan modernism

Creolization is, of course, a theoretical term that has emerged from, and been uniquely shaped by, the experience of colonization in the Caribbean. (7) As Edouard Glissant contends, creolization should describe not a static "category" of identity "halfway between 'pure' extremes," but "the unceasing process of transformation" through which people create a collective sense of identity from multiple cultural sources (Caribbean Discourse 142, 140). Creolization identifies a process by which something is created in the colonies that is neither indigenous to the region nor identical with its counterpart in a culture of origin. Similarly, Walcott creates a New World modernism that is not "purely" indigenous in its mimicry of Joyce and others but is not identical or subservient to Joyce or modernism either, because he recasts both to reflect the Caribbean experience. As Walcott himself argues, this method creates "forms" that "originate in imitation" but "end in invention" ("The Caribbean" 55). And, while the concep t of creolization may have emerged from the unique circumstances of Caribbean history, Glissant also correctly asserts that it is a "cross-cultural process" from which "no people has been spared" (140).

Indeed, James Clifford suggests that creolization has become such a common phenomenon that the Caribbean cultural experience has become paradigmatic rather than marginal in understanding other contemporary cultural exchanges. He even goes so far as to claim that "we are all Caribbeans now in our urban archipelagos," which suggests that Walcott's recasting of Joyce has a wider cultural significance (The Predicament 173). Clifford is not glibly appropriating creolization or the Caribbean experience to homogenize all the different experiences of interculturation throughout the world. He explicitly recognizes the violence that has shaped the complementarity of creolization and so has shaped the cultural cosmopolitanism of the twentieth century. Indeed, he argues that the process of "displacement and transplantation" in "diaspora cultures"--the process, in other words, of creolization--is "inseparable from specific, often violent, histories of economic, political, and cultural interaction--histories that generate what might be called discrepant cosmopolitanisms" (Routes 36). Clifford coins discrepant cosmopolitanisms to identify both the local differences and the global patterns in this process of interculturation, a process that links the cosmopolitan nature of both creolization and modernism. Clifford suggests that his interest in this "cultural collage and incongruity derives quite explicitly from modernist art and poetry" (Routes 180). Moreover, he has not been alone in trying to recuperate the concept of cosmopolitanism by qualifying its Eurocentric connotations. David Hollinger speaks of a "rooted cosmopolitanism"; Kwame Anthony Appiah describes a "cosmopolitan patriotism"; and Homi Bhabha suggests a new "vernacular cosmopolitanism." (8) Each of these phrases conveys the cultural ambivalence of being settled and traveling, local and international, discrepant and cosmopolitan, different and the same, as a way to describe the contemporary experience of cultural globalization.

Of course, this renewed interest in cosmopolitanism has not been without its critics. Timothy Brennan has been one of the most articulate and wide-ranging. He sees this renewed cosmopolitanism as threatening the nationalism that has animated the resistance of existing and emerging third-world polities. Accordingly, he faults Clifford for failing to "hold out a sophisticated theoretical space for a defensive nationalism," and he reproaches other cosmopolitan proponents because of the "practical difficulties and inappropriateness of living by [a cosmopolitan] ethic as a participant in anticolonial war" (17, 18). Brennan rightly warns against cosmopolitanism's homogenizing tendency--the conflating of cosmopolitanism with Euro-American universalism--but he does not sufficiently recognize the discrepancy in Clifford's discrepant cosmopolitanisms.

Insurgency contestation, and divergence are embedded in Clifford's concept and in Walcott's poetry. This discrepancy involves recognizing national, linguistic, and cultural differences, but it does not conceive of these differences as the exclusive way to understand cultural resistance and formation. This cosmopolitanism suggests that cultural change occurs through collaboration as well as opposition. Walcott exemplifies this collaborative resistance in his relationship to Joyce, and, in the process, shows both the cosmopolitan scope of modernism as well as the inevitable partiality of any individual expressions of it. Joyce's cosmopolitan modernism migrates to the New World as an aesthetic ideal, but Walcott naturalizes its features to convey the discrepancy of the Caribbean experience.

Indeed, literal and metaphoric traveling become central to this new understanding of modernism's discrepant cosmopolitanism. Clifford urges cultural critics to turn their attention to "traveling cultures," by which he means examining the location and movement, dwelling and displacement, residence and migration of people and cultures. Tracing these routes helps to explain how cultural "homes" are increasingly becoming defined and redefined in relation to these experiences of travel. In Clifford's words, it is an approach to the study of "human difference articulated in displacement, tangled cultural experiences, structures and possibilities of an increasingly connected but not homogenous world" (Routes 2). Walcott concurs. He describes St.-John Perse as a great New World poet because he expresses an "elemental praise" of his island home and still "remains the wanderer, the man who moves through the ruins of great civilizations ... the poet carrying entire cultures in his head, bitter perhaps, but unencumbered" ("The Muse of History" 38).Walcott too is a cosmopolitan "wanderer" who remains intensely concerned with representing his home. In Omeros, he travels through Ireland to pay his respects again to Joyce, but it is a journey of homage through which he also successfully praises the differences of his work and of his home.

"Our age's Omeros:"

Walcott reverses and honors Joyce

Walcott was initially apprehensive about comparisons between his Omeros and Joyce's Ulysses. "I know what's going to happen with this book;' he tells an interviewer. "The parenthesis, the large parenthesis will begin.

Everybody will put in a bracket--now he is trying to do Ulysses" (Brown 182). In fact, he works out his relationship to Joyce better in Omeros because he now mimics Joyce more explicitly in terms of both resistance and praise. In Walcott's own words, he both "reverses and honours" Joyce (Omeros 68). The pun on "reverses" suggests both a rewriting (a re-versing) and a resisting (a redirecting) of the cultural past, and "honours" reiterates the principle from "The Muse of History" that "those who break a tradition first hold it in awe" (36).

Two specific examples--Walcott's reunion with his dead father at the end of book t and his visit to Dublin in book 5--deserve our particular attention, for they best illustrate Walcott's method. Toward the end of book 1, Walcott is reunited with the ghost of his father, Warwick, in their childhood home in Castries. Warwick had died when Derek was only one. The house had been converted into a print shop, and Warwick emerges from the duplication machine, a nicely sardonic comment on the material conditions of publishing literature in the Caribbean. The father comes to instruct the son about his future vocation, so the scene participates in a classical epic convention, Odysseus's reunion with Telemachus, Anchises's with Aeneas, and the poetic "father," Brunetto Latini, advising his student "son," Dante, about the poet's craft.

Speaking in loose Homeric hexameters and Dantean terza rima, Warwick begins by telling Walcott about growing up in Castries:

I was raised in this obscure Caribbean port

where my bastard father christened me after his shire:

Warwick. The Bard's county. But never felt part

of the foreign machinery known as Literature.

I preferred verse to fame, but I wrote with heart

of an amateur. It's that Will you inherit.

I died on his birthday, one April. Your mother

sewed her own costume as Portia, then that disease

like Hamlet's old man's spread from an infected ear,

I believe the parallel has brought you some peace,

Death imitating Art, eh? (68-69)

At one level, it is a speech that "reverses" Warwick's biographical facts in order to honor him. So, for example, Warwick ascribes the stigma of being a "bastard" not to himself but to his white father's (Walcott's grandfather's) colonial practice of begetting, naming, and abandoning him. He does not, however, only ascribe blame; he also transposes his naming--he "re-verses" the significance of Warwick--to align himself, and by implication his son, with Shakespeare. It is not the academic Shakespeare of an imposed colonial canon--the "foreign machinery known as Literature"--but an idealized Shakespeare of the amateur poet who reads and writes for the love of the craft. And, with his final allusion to Hamlet, Warwick expands exponentially his role as a composite figure of tradition. The scene becomes a "reversing and honouring," not only of the classical sources, but also of King Hamlet's admonitions to Hamlet. This convergence, then, might recall a series of modernist and contemporary "colonial" parallels, no t only Stephen Dedalus's theories of Hamlet in Ulysses, but also T. S. Eliot's encounter with the familiar compound ghost in Little Gidding and Seamus Heaney's meeting with Joyce in Station Island. In other words, Walcott proliferates the correspondences as a strategy of mimicry, a proliferation that transforms imitation into invention by constructing new relations among writers, which, in turn, opens up new positions of authority for Walcott.

This proliferation of allusions is a familiar modernist strategy. As Richard Ellmann argues, when Joyce represents his ordinary Irish characters in the context of classical mythological figures, he blends the "two ends of the western tradition like a multitemporal, multiterritorial pun" (2). Walcott mimics Joyce's strategy, but he widely broadens the ends of his New World tradition. In this passage, he receives his call to become a poet ("it's that Will that you inherit") from his father, an Afro-Caribbean amateur poet who loved the English tradition; later in book 7, Walcott is instructed by Omeros (his creolized name for Homer) and Seven Seas (a blind Afro-Caribbean character who serves as a New World "folk" figure of tradition). (9) Walcott conflates Omeros and Seven Seas in this section to underscore the new breadth of his cosmopolitan modernism, a breadth that combines the classical and vernacular, "Western" and "African," elite and popular cultural traditions that make up his Caribbean experience.

More specifically, Walcott transposes Joyce's modernist method by "reversing and honouririg" Stephen's theories of Hamlet in Ulysses. Stephen identifies Shakespeare with King Hamlet the father rather than Hamlet the son and speculates about the infidelity of Anne Hathaway He develops this theory to suggest that the artist must be both father and mother to the work of art. Stephen's vision of the artist is a self- authorizing figure who transcends the need for origins, the tracing of genealogies, or the imitation of literary predecessors. Accordingly, Stephen describes

fatherhood, in the sense of conscious begetting, [as] unknown to man. It is a mystical estate, an apostolic succession, from only begetter to only begotten. On that mystery ... the church is founded and founded irremovable because founded, like the world, macro and microcosm, upon the void. Upon incertitude, upon unlikelihood. (9.837-42)

Stephen's theory is especially meaningful for Walcott. The Caribbean experience of slavery and indentured servitude severed people's ties to origins, ruptured family genealogies, and fragmented traditions, placing absence at the core of Caribbean culture. Walcott does not merely theorize about the artist as self-generating father violated by speculative infidelity; instead, he knows personally the pain of being an orphan son, both literally separated from a father who died when he was young and partially estranged from the cultural traditions in which he was raised. Stephen wonders glibly about the arbitrary significance of names, while Walcott recognizes experientially the alienation of having a father named for a county in England. Stephen proposes paternity as a "legal fiction" (9.8444), but the legal fiction of illegitimacy cannot be so flippantly dismissed by people or cultures that have too often been characterized as "bastards" (Omeros 68). Walcott represents colonialism's injustice, but he refuses to be limited to only representing it. Instead, he accepts the void, the incertitude, the unlikelihood of experience, not as a heroic discovery like Stephen, but as a simple fact of postcolonial Caribbean life, a fact that he transforms into an advantage because it empowers him to construct his own origin, genealogy, and heritage. Bereft of real and literary fathers, Walcott dismisses the Oedipal model of literary tradition that seems to animate Joyce's modernism. Walcott does not struggle with authoritative fathers whom he must depose but conjures an imagined father with whom he enjoys a reunion. Indeed, when Warwick asks him to distinguish between the verse of the father and that of the son, Walcott responds: "Sir ... they are one voice" (68). Out of the absences left by colonial oppression, Walcott creates a cosmopolitan Caribbean cultural presence by speaking for the region's many lost traditions and by inflecting that speech with the accent of his own voice.

Walcott recognizes, of course, that in reversing Joyce he honors him, but this time he is also able to recast his praise of Joyce to pay homage to St. Lucia. The context is important, so let me briefly recount it. At the end of book 4, Walcott meets his father again on the beaches of Marblehead, Massachusetts. Warwick instructs him to take the Grand Tour of Europe, "to enter cities / that open like The World's Classics," but "once you have seen everything and gone everywhere, / cherish our island for its green simplicities, / enthrone yourself" (187). Walcott takes this transnational journey in order to better represent his cultural home.

In book 5, then, Walcott leaves from Boston--the order, as we'll see, is important--travels to Lisbon and London, and then arrives in Dublin. In the Dublin chapter, Walcott praises Joyce by alluding not to Stephen but to artist figures from Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. For instance, he imagines waiting for Joyce "as if he / bloomed there every dusk with eye-patch and tilted hat / rakish cane on one shoulder" and describes the Irish Troubles as "still splitting heirs, dividing a Shem from a Shaun" (199). He also praises Joyce directly, calling him "our age's Omeros, undimmed Master" (200) and acknowledging his own indebtedness, "I blest myself in his voice" (220). Walcott attributes Joyce's success to his ability to inflect English with the music of his own voice--he describes him as the "true tenor of the place." And by "place' Walcott suggests not only the writer's role as the voice of a particular geographical community, whether it be Ireland or St. Lucia, Europe or the Caribbean, but also the writer's duty to language itself, a duty to "purify the dialect of the tribe" by inflecting it anew with the distinct rhythm and timbre of the poet's own voice.

Appropriately, then, Walcott ends this chapter with a song. He enters a pub, most likely run by one H. C. Earwicker, and discovers that a character from his Omeros, Maud Plunkett, is playing the piano. Among the singers gathered around the piano--the Dead, as Walcott aptly calls them--Walcott sees Joyce for the first time. As his Maud plays the melody,

Mr. Joyce

led us all, as gently as Howth when it drizzles, his voice like sun-drizzled Howth, its violet lees

of moss at low tide, where a dog barks "Howth! Howth!" at

the shawled waves, and the stone I rubbed in my pocket

from the Martello brought one-eyed Ulysses

to the copper-bright strand, watching the mail-packet

butting past the Head, its wake glittering like keys. (201)

As Walcott so willingly recognizes throughout his career, Mr. Joyce has been one of a few writers in the twentieth century who has led us all. He is a touchstone of our age, and we do well to rub contemporary texts against his work to assess the achievement of subsequent writers. Walcott invites this test, for he trusts that such critical friction will burnish not only Joyce's work but also his own. He is right.

For while Joyce leads the singers, he is accompanied by the music of Walcott's Maud. Or, to misquote Auden, the song of a dead man is modified by the music of the living. In Walcott's insistent repeating of "Howth," he reminds us of the ending of Finnegans Wake; an ending that gives the final word to the mother rather than to the father. In particular, Walcott echoes Anna Livia's final monologue in which she imagines a romantic rendezvous with her husband at Howth at daybreak: "We can sit us down on the heathery benn, me on you, in quolm unconsciousnce. To scand the arising" (623.24).They scan the horizon, not only for the rising sun that ushers in the morning, but also for the all-important Letter, the Letter that is composed by one son, Shem the Penman, and delivered by the other, Shawn the Postman, the Letter that serves as the pervasive motif of literature throughout Finnegans Wake. At Howth, they will be able to "watch would the letter you're wanting be coming may be. And cast ashore" (623.29). It is the Letter "rased on traumscrapt from Maston, Boss"--based on a transcript from Boston, Mass--and delivered by their son "after rounding his world of ancient days" (623.36). Indeed, the specific itinerary of the Letter's journey has been implied since the beginning of the novel, for the hero "rearrived from North Armorica on this side the scraggy isthmus of Europe Minor" (1.4-5). In other words, the Letter of Finnegans Wake originates in Boston, travels through Europe, and arrives in Dublin from the east--the same route that the Walcott character traverses to meet Joyce in Omeros.

Slowly, the importance of Walcott's imagined journey comes clear.

He has yet again reversed Joyce's art with the literal experience of his life, for Walcott also calls Boston home. For the last two decades or so, he has spent a part of each year teaching there, and he composed much of Omeros in this city. When he summons Joyce at the end of this section to watch "the mail-packet / butting past the Head, its wake glittering like keys," he strongly suggests that this particular mail packet will contain his Omeros; it is the Letter from the New World eagerly awaited by Joyce but written with a difference by Walcott. For, while Joyce expected the Letter's author to be an expatriate from Ireland, Walcott succeeds because Omeros reflects the literal experience of a "fortunate traveler" from St. Lucia. Walcott's life may mimic Joyce's art, but Walcott's art succeeds by transmuting his life's differences into new patterns of cross-cultural affinity and contrast. It is a standard by which Joyce and Walcott earn commensurate recognition as artists of our age. For, as Anna Livia Plura belle would say, the writing of a Letter is hard "but once done, dealt, and delivered, tattat, you're on the map" (623.35-6). In Omeros, Walcott redraws that map of literature written in English to represent the discrepancy of his New World cosmopolitan modernism.

Postcolonial modernists/modernist postcolonials

Walcott's recasting of Joyce's cosmopolitan modernism calls into question the dominant critical approach to the relationship between modernism and postcolonialism, the approach that presumes modernism is to postmodernism as colonialism is to postcolonialism. Indeed, the ubiquitous post of contemporary critical discourse has made this parallelism too easy to assert. For example, Stephen Slemon asserts that the "armed version" of modernism is colonialism and that postmodemnism and postcolonialism have emerged in reaction to this single cultural event (3). He favors the postcolonial approach on ideological grounds and castigates postmodernism for joining "hands with its modernist precursor to assert a "universalizing, assimilative impulse" and to continue a "politics of colonialist control" (14). In other words, postmodernism is bad because it is too modernist, and modernism is a form of cultural imperialism. He concludes wistfully that postmodernism may still find a way to "join, not assimilate, post-colonial c ritical discourse in . . . decolonizing Western culture," by which he means "decolonizing it . . . from a residual modernism" (15). Unfortunately, Slemon is not alone in strapping modernism to the whipping post of contemporary theory. (10)

Kwame Anthony Appiah offers a more compelling response to the question of whether "the post- in postmodernism is the post- in postcolonial," (11) but he still represents modernism as the evil to be overcome. He concurs with Slemon and others that post signifies a common methodological need to make a "space-clearing gesture" (149). Unfortunately, he too makes modernism the scapegoat in order to assimilate these posts, arguing that postcolonialism and postmodernism should affirm together a contingent humanism by expressing a common "concern for human suffering . . . while still rejecting the master narratives of modernism" (155). By assuming that the post in postcolonial implicitly means against modernism, Slemon, Appiah, and others have oversimplified the nature of modernism and so have obscured the ways in which postcolonial writers have productively adapted modernist strategies and ideals.

While those interested in postcolonial theory have tended to castigate modernism, those who study African American or Caribbean writers have been more willing to employ modernism as a useful conceptual category. For example, in Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance, Houston Baker contends that African American writers at the beginning of the twentieth century employed two complementary strategies to construct a liberating modernist poetics--the mastering of standard forms (the method of minstrelsy) and the deformation of mastery (the opposing of those same forms)--a contention that seems to echo Walcott's reversing and honoring of Joyce. Even more apropos, in his study of Caribbean modernist fiction, Simon Gikandi concludes that many novelists from the region employ "the language of modernism" to reclaim "colonial modernism" as a "narrative of liberation" (256).

Even though these critics are more willing to see how principles of modernism have been used by African American and Caribbean writers, they still feel compelled to define these new discrepant moderisms in binary opposition to "Western" "European" or "high" modernism. Baker argues that "Africans and Afro-Americans . . . have little in common with Joycean or Eliotic projects" and that their histories are, in fact, "radically opposed" (xv-xvi). Similarly, Gikandi claims that Caribbean modernism must be conceived as "opposed to . . . European notions of modernism" in general and the "high modernist aesthetic" of Pound, Eliot, and Joyce in particular (4-5). Gikandi especially labors to distinguish Walcott's New World aesthetic from Joyce's "hermetic ahistoric formalism and aestheticism," claiming that Walcott "really" negates Joyce's "European model of history anchored in the notions of progress and temporal closure" (9). For Walcott, on the contrary, Joyce's modernism could be useful to a Caribbean writer precis ely because it expresses deep doubts about the "European model of history," including the "notions of progress and temporal closure." Baker and Gikandi are right to see African American and Caribbean modernism as different from European modernism, but those differences emerge in Walcott more through his representation of the Caribbean than through his opposition to European modernism. Unlike many postcolonial theorists and critics, Walcott seems less anxious to sweep away the burden of modernism and more anxious to exploit its resources for new purposes. Instead of accepting the monolithic caricatures of modernism, he resonates with its complex ambivalence as he responds to the complexities of the Caribbean postcolonial experience.

Models of literary influence that isolate writers by geography or race or that oppose writers in Oedipal struggles are simply not multifaceted enough to describe the increasingly transcultural relationships among writers in the twentieth century. Walcott is neither a literary orphan unrelated to Joyce and his modernism nor a rebel son violently rejecting Joyce's authority; instead, Walcott and Joyce are more like second cousins whose distinctly individual responses to modernity bear a common family resemblance. This family resemblance calls into question the national and ideological assumptions underlying much of the research and teaching about modern literature in English. Global migrations, international publishing markets, and the cross-cultural interests of twentieth- century writers make their work extremely difficult to categorize as exclusively American or English, modernist or postcolonial. Indeed, it is not until we juxtapose more people in the family picture--not just Walcott and Joyce but Rushdie a nd Joyce, Desai and Woolf, Ondaatje and Stevens, Brathwaite and Eliot, and Ngugi and Conrad--that we can begin to see the complementary but distinct ways that the language and literature of English reflects the discrepant cosmopolitan experiences of the twentieth century.

Charles W. Pollard is assistant professor of English at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has published in Interventions and Christianity and Literature and has an essay forthcoming in MLA Approaches to Teaching Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. He is currently working on a book that examines the role of T. S. Eliot in shaping the Caribbean modernisms of Derek Walcott and Kamau Brathwaite.


(1.) See, for example, Semicolonial Joyce, edited by Derek Attridge and Marjorie Elizabeth Howes; Vincent J. Cheng's Joyce, Race, and Empire; and Joseph Valente's James Joyce and the Problem of Justice.

(2.) This exception is Transcultural Joyce, the collection of essays edited by Karen Lawrence. However, even in this collection, only four of the 16 essays focus primarily on Joyce's influence outside of Europe. Of these four essays, Ronald Bush offers the best analysis of the migration of Joyce's modernism. He examines how Salman Rushdie recasts Joyce in The Satanic Verses as a way to "clarify the intersection between the postmodern and the postcolonial and [to suggest] the importance of the dialectics of colonialism in the formation of modernist and postmodernist fiction" (130).

(3.) Frantz Fanon clearly initiates this sense of postcolonial cultural development by aligning it with a false model of national independence. He describes the "native writer" as moving from "unqualified assimilation" to nativist exoticism and finally to a "fighting" or "revolutionary" writing that is truly a "national literature" (222-23).

(4.) And it is not only Joyce who is an unassimilated modernist influence in the poem. As Keith Alleyne rightly notes in a contemporaneous review, "Eliot is not merely an influence, but a complete formula, through the whole succession of Joyce and Stephen Daedalus, Buck Mulligan and Hamlet, Telemachus and Dante and Virgil" (98).

(5.) Edward Baugh describes the development of Another Life from the short magazine article "Leaving School" through several prose and prose/poetry drafts to the final book-length poem (228-30). In an interview, Walcott himself calls Epitaph for the Young an "Urtext" for Another Life (qtd. in Hamner 23).

(6.) Walcott describes his theory of mimicry most thoroughly in "The Caribbean: Culture or Mimicry?" He uses mongrel and hybrid in "What the Twilight Says" when he describes his poetic task as having the

faith of using the old names anew, so that mongrel as I am, something prickles in me when I see the word "Ashanti" as with the word "Warwickshire," both separately intimating my grandfather's roots, both baptizing this proud not ashamed bastard, this hybrid, this West Indian. (9)

He uses reverses at the end of book 1 of Omeros. For creolization, see Brath- waite's Contradictory Omens; for liminality, see Bhabha's Location; for chutnification, see Rushdie's Midnight's Children; for rhizomes, see Glissant's Caribbean Discourse and Poetics of Relation and Benitez-Rojo's The Repeating Island; and for metissage, see Retamar's "Caliban."

(7.) J. Michael Dash traces the changing definition of creolization in Caribbean literature and literary theory in "Psychology, Creolization, and Hybridization." See also Glissant's discussion of creolization in Caribbean Discourse (134-44).

(8.) David Hollinger describes his "postethnic perspective" as a form of "rooted cosmopolitanism," a perspective that he contends "recogni[zes], accept[s] and eager[ly] explor[es] diversity" (5, 86). Kwame Anthony Appiah's term is cosmopolitan patriotism, which he defines as an attachment to the "cultural particularities" of one's own home and "pleasure in the presence of other, different places [and] other, different people" ("Cosmopolitan Patriots" 618). Homi Bhabha coins vernacular cosmopolitanism to explain how we participate both in transnational and indigenous cultural communities ("Unsatisfied" 194-97).

(9.) Seven Seas has the extraordinary ability to recount the communal stories of the New World. He sings of the Middle Passage as an African griot (148-49); he explains to Achille how the names of the trees mark the massacre of Caribs and Aruacs (163-64); and he recalls participating in the Ghost Dance as a Sioux shaman (164, 318).

(10.) While these critics disagree about the relationship between postmodernism and postcolonialism, they are united in their opprobrium of modernism. For instance, Frank Davey argues that the postmodern and the postcolonial come together because the predominant non-European interpretation of modernism is as "an international movement, elitist, imperialist, 'totalizing' willing to appropriate the local while being condescending toward its practice' (119). Linda Hutcheon asserts that both postmodernist and postcolonialist writers seek to renegotiate their relationship to the past because of the ahistoricism of colonial modernism ("Circling" 152). Simon During is more pessimistic about the relationship between postmodernism and postcolonialism (the "concept of postmodernity has been constructed in terms which more or less intentionally wipe out the possibility of postcolonial identity"), but he still defines the goal of postcolonialism in antimoderist rhetoric: "to achieve an identity uncontaminated by universa list or Eurocentric concepts or images" (125). Georg Gugelberger feels compelled to distinguish the "bilingual, even polyglot" language in "Third World Literature" from the "polyglot aspects of the Euro-American modernist tradition" (518). For an overview of this debate with extensive bibliographic materials, see Linda Hutcheon's "Colonialism and the Postcolonial Condition" and two special issues of the journal Ariel, one edited by Helen Tiffin, the other edited by Stephen Slemon, Aruna Srivastava, and Pamela McCallum.

(11.) The quotation is the title of Kwame Anthony Appiah's influential article in Critical Inquiry. He subsequently modified the article and included it as a part of his collection In My Father's House under the title "The Postcolonial and the Postmodern."

Works cited

Alleyne, Keith. Rev. of Epitaph for the Young by Derek Walcott. Critical Perspectives on Derek Walcott. Ed. Robert D. Hamner. Washington: Three Continents, 1993. 98-105.

Appiah, Kwame Anthony. "Cosmopolitan Patriots." Critical Inquiry 23.3 (Spring 1997): 617-39.

-----.In My Father's House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1992.

Attridge, Derek. Preface. The Cambridge Companion to James Joyce. Ed. Derek Attridge. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990. ix-x.

Attridge, Derek, and Marjorie Elizabeth Howes, eds. Semicolonial Joyce. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000.

Baker, Houston A. Jr. Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1987.

Baugh, Edward. "The Poem as an Autobiographical Novel: Derek Walcott's 'Another Life' in relation to Wordsworth's 'Prelude' and Joyce's 'Portrait.' Awakened Conscience: Studies in Commonwealth Literature. Ed. C. D. Narasimhaiah. New Delhi: Sterling, 1978.226-35.

Benitez-Rojo, Antonio. The Repeating Island: The Caribbean and the Postmodern Perspective. Durham: Duke UP, 1992.

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

-----."Unsatisfied: Notes on Vernacular Cosmopolitanism." Text and Nation: Cross-Disciplinary Essays on Cultural and National Identities. Ed. Laura Garcia-Moreno and Peter C. Pfeiffer. Columbia: Camden, 1996. 191-207.

Brathwaite, Edward Kamau. Contradictory Omens: Cultural Diversity and Integration in the Caribbean. Mona: Savacou, 1974.

Brennan, Timothy At Home in the World: Cosmopolitanism Now. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1997.

Brown, Robert, and Cheryl Johnson. "Thinking Poetry: An Interview with Derek Walcott." Conversations with Derek Walcott. Ed. William Baer. Jackson: U of Mississippi P, 1996. 175-88.

Bush, Ronald. "Rereading the Exodus: Frankenstein, Ulysses, The Satanic Verses, and Other Postcolonial Texts." Transcultural Joyce. Ed. Karen Lawrence. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. 129-50.

Cheng, Vincent J. Joyce, Race, and Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995.

Clifford, James. The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1988.

-----. Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1997.

Dash, J. Michael. "Psychology, Creolization, and Hybridization." New National and Post-Colonial Literatures: An Introduction. Ed. Bruce King. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996. 45-58.

Davey, Frank. Reading Canadian Reading Winnipeg: Turnstone, 1988.

During, Simon. "Postmodernism or Post-colonialism Today" The Post-colonial Studies Reader. Ed. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. New York: Routledge, 1995. 125-29.

Ellmann, Richard. Ulysses on the Liffey. London: Faber, 1972.

Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. Trans. Constance Farrington. New York: Grove, 1963.

Gikandi, Simon. Writing in Limbo: Modernism and Caribbean Literature. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1992.

Glissant, Edouard. Caribbean Discourse: Selected Essays. Trans. J. Michael Dash. Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1989.

-----. Poetics of Relation. Trans. Betsy Wing. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1997.

Gugelberger, Georg. "Decolonizing the Canon: Considerations of Third World Literature." New Literary History 22.3 (Summer 1991): 505-24.

Hamner, Robert. "Conversation with Derek Walcott." Conversations with Derek Walcott. Ed. William Baer. Jackson: U of Mississippi P, 1996. 21-33.

Hollinger, David. Postethnic America. New York: Basic, 1995.

Hutcheon, Linda. "Circling the Downspout of Empire: Postcolonialism and Postmodernism." Ariel 20.4 (1989): 149-75.

-----. "Colonialism and the Postcolonial Condition: Complexity Abounding." PMLA 110.1 (Jan. 1995):7-16.

Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke UP, 1991.

Joyce, James. Finnegans Wake. 1939. London: Faber, 1975.

-----. Ulysses. 1922. London: Penguin, 1986.

Lawrence, Karen, ed. Transcultural Joyce. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998.

Retamar, Roberto Fernandez. "Caliban" and Other Essays. Minneapolis: U of Minneapolis P, 1989.

Rushdie, Salman. Midnight's Children. New York: Penguin, 1980.

Schwartz, Delmore. "T. S. Eliot as the International Hero." Selected Essays of Delmore Schwartz. Ed. Donald A. Dike and David H. Zucker. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1970. 120-42.

Slemon, Stephen. "Modernism's Last Post." Ariel 20.4 (1989): 3-17.

Slemon, Stephen, Aruna Srivastava, and Pamela McCallum, eds. Postcolonialism and Its Discontents. Spec. issue of Ariel 26.1 (1995).

Tiffin, Helen, ed. Post-Colonialism and Post-Modernism. Spec. issue of Ariel 20.4 (1989).

Valente, Joseph. James Joyce and the Problem of Justice: Negotiating Sexual and Colonial Difference. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995.

Walcott, Derek. Another Life. New York: Farrar, 1973.

-----. "The Caribbean: Culture or Mimicry?" Critical Perspectives on Derek Walcott. Ed. Robert Hamner. Washington: Three Continents, 1993. 51-57.

-----. Epitaph for the Young: A Poem in XII Cantos. Bridgetown: Advocate, 1949.

-----. "Leaving School." Critical Perspectives on Derek Walcott. Ed. Robert D. Hamner. Washington: Three Continents, 1993. 24-32.

-----. "The Muse of History." What the Twilight Says. New York: Farrar, 1998. 36-64.

-----. Omeros. New York: Farrar, 1989.

-----. "Volcano." The Collected Poems 1948-1984. New York: Farrar, 1984. 324-25.

-----. "What the Twilight Says." What the Twilight Says. New York: Farrar, 1998. 3-35.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Hofstra University
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:James Joyce
Author:Pollard, Charles W.
Publication:Twentieth Century Literature
Geographic Code:00WOR
Date:Jun 22, 2001
Previous Article:Cultural droppings: Bersani's Beckett.
Next Article:Carving a literary exception: The obscenity standard and Ulysses.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters