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Native traditions in the West Indian novel

Robinson, Jeffrey Lambert (1973) Native traditions in the West Indian novel. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.


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The introduction to this thesis argues that it is not yet possible to exclude awareness of the social and political development of the West Indies from any adequate appreciation of the West Indian novel. It is suggested that national identity and cultural values in the region are so fluid as to make a rigorous defence of the autonomy of the work of art inappropriate. A brief description of West Indian society is provided. The factors which make it possible to regard the West Indian territories as a single region are discussed. Individual national characteristics are mentioned and the class structures and racial compositions-of the territories are examined. Literary criticism in the thesis is divided into three sections; the intention, in each case, is to show the way socio-cultural developments in the area have produced common themes in a wide range of West Indian novels. The first section suggests that there have been attempts by novelists to apply the concept of romantic love to man-woman relationships in the West Indies. It is further argued that the concept is alien to working class West Indian setting and that the European ideal of love has. been used as a criterion by which West Indian man-woman relationships are very often judged and presented as inadequate or negative. I suggest that an image of womanhood a West Indian literary concept of femininity - arises from the conflict between the European ideal and West Indian social reality. The second section is concerned with the growing West Indian need for a history and a way of seeing the past. I suggest that the matriarchal family-structure of the West Indian working-class has presented Caribbean novelists with a ready metaphor for examining history in fiction. The special importance of motherhood at one level of West Indian society has led to the use of the mother-child relationship as a convenient metaphor to describe the relationship between the society and its history and identity. The third section concerns attempts to redress the balance between the illegal occult practices of the West Indian folk (obeah) and the legal and "respectable" Christian religion. These attempts may depend on equal condemnation of obeah and Christianity as superstitions or on the presentation of both faiths as equally valid. The literary consequences of these two methods are examined.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of English (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.526355
Depositing User: Ethos Import
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2011 15:14
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2014 11:13
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/1250

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