Imagining the Modern Caribbean

Bill Schwarz (QMU)


We will engage with a selection of some of the defining texts which have enabled the modern Caribbean to be brought into the collective imagination, looking at fiction and non-fiction.

Our principal focus is on the Anglophone Caribbean: but we want to take this opportunity to explore at least initially something of the French and Spanish regions, which add an important corrective to an exclusively British or Anglophone perspective. We should also consider where the boundaries of the Caribbean lie: there is much interesting work on the idea of the greater Caribbean, which takes for its object of study the old plantation societies of ‘tropical’ America.

From this point of view the writers of the US South, of Central America and of the northern states of South America could be understood as Caribbean. We could valuably read (say) Faulkner (Mississippi) or Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia): we shall have to leave Faulkner, but we will have the opportunity to read the Márquez classic, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

We will encounter some wonderful books, and I hope that this reading (and the reading which follows from it) will be with you long after you complete your MA. The format is simple. We will all be required to read the weekly set-book, and often there will be a photocopied extract from a complementary or juxtaposed work to read alongside it. One person will be asked to present the book and extracts, and open discussion.

Set texts:

Shani Mootoo, Cereus Blooms at Night [1996] (Granta, 1999)
Maryse Condé, I, Tituba. Black Witch of Salem [1986] (Faber, 2000)
Derek Walcott, What The Twilight Says. Essays [1992] (Faber, 1998)
Earl Lovelace, Salt [1996] (Faber, 1996)
Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude [1967] (Penguin, 2007)
George Lamming, The Pleasures of Exile [1960] (Pluto, 2005)
Paule Marshall, Brown Girl, Brownstones [1959] (Virago, 1982)
VS Naipaul, A House for Mr Biswas [1961] (Picador, 2003)
Aimé Césaire, Notebook of a Return to My Native Land [1939] (Bloodaxe, 1995)


Soy Cuba (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1964)


  • CLR James, ‘From Toussaint to Fidel: 1963 appendix to The Black Jacobins’ [1938] (Penguin, 2001)
  • Fernando Ortiz, Cuban Counterpoint. Tobacco and Sugar [1947] (Duke University Press, 2001), pp. 97-103
  • Alejo Carpentier, ‘On the Marvelous Real in America’ [1949/1975] in Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris (eds), Magical Realism. Theory, History, Community (1995)
  • Eric Williams, Inward Hunger. The Education of a Prime Minister (Deutsch, 1969), ch. 3: ‘The education of a young colonial’
  • George Lamming, ‘The Negro Writer and his World’ Présence Africaine 8-10 (June-November, 1956).
  • James Baldwin, ‘Princes and Powers’ [1956] in his Nobody Know My Name. More Notes of a Native Son (1961)
  • Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks [1952] (Pluto, 2008), ch. 5: ‘The fact of blackness’
  • Stuart Hall, 'Breaking Bread with History. C.L.R. James and The Black Jacobins' History Workshop Journal 46, 1998