RADICAL CANONS: EPIGRAPHIC PRACTICE, IDENTITY FORMATION, AND CARIBBEAN WRITERS
Abstract: Radical Canons: Epigraphs, Literary Identity, and Caribbean Writers argues that certain Caribbean authors and Caribbean texts from the 1960s onward craft a self-determined literary identity distinct from and in relation to an imperial British literary tradition through the use of epigraphs. The device of the epigraph itself has not been extensively studied in an Anglophone context. In hi... read mores classic 1987 book Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, Gérard Genette outlined four functions for the epigraph, which he defines as "a quotation placed en exergue, generally at the head of a work or a section of a work." Genette's synchronic study does not take the opportunity to address the ways in which the socio-historical and political contexts of authors might affect this function. Radical Canons extends the theoretical framework outlined by Genette to offer a revised theory of the epigraph that addresses the impact of colonialism on the contexts of literary works and presents new formulations of the epigraph's possible rhetorical functions as a hyper-condensed cultural reference point. In addition to the functions elaborated by Genette in Paratexts, I contend that the form of the epigraph can serve to recontextualize and thus denaturalize its source text. Power differentials between the cultural contexts of an epigraph's source text and the primary text in which it appears invite readers to see relations of contrast or critique as well as support or sanction. Yet the colonial associations of canonical English works remain, and their reinterpretation continues to be complicated by the colonizer/colonized relationship. Caribbean texts begin to reveal a different resonance of the epigraph in the aftermath of political independence, one that structurally and rhetorically confers, rather than borrows, authority. Later texts use the epigraphic position to construct a Caribbean literary canon that is distinct from England's literary canon. My reading of the epigraph as serving this rhetorical function for Caribbean authors also contests the common assumption within literary critical studies that only deconstructing canons can produce radical energy. Reading novels by Andrew Salkey, Orlando Patterson, and Michelle Cliff, Radical Canons considers the potential revolutionary force in canonicity.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2018.
Submitted to the Dept. of English.
Advisor: Modhumita Roy.
Committee: John Lurz, H. Adlai Murdoch, and Michael Bucknor.
Keywords: Caribbean literature, English literature, and Modern literature.read less