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Metropolitan Modernism and Its West Indian Interlocutors: 1950s London and the Emergence of Postcolonial Literature

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020


Using archival sources, interviews, and memoirs, this essay documents the surprisingly extensive connections between London's extant modernists and West Indian writers during the 1950s. With the support of Stephen Spender, John Lehmann, T. S. Eliot, and other luminaries, a vibrant group of Caribbean artists quickly established themselves as known literary commodities. Such forms of collaboration between metropolitan intellectuals and their colonial counterparts were structured by shared interests in high culture. London's modernists feared English culture was faced with terminal decline; West Indian writers exploited that fear by insisting that the metropolitan culture industry badly needed an infusion of colonial talent. The brevity and fragility of these bonds, however, led to the emergence of postcolonial literature as a distinct but marginal cultural niche. London's postwar identity as center of global cultural production, I suggest, was intimately connected with the recruitment and assimilation of colonial intellectuals.

Research Article
Copyright © Modern Language Association of America, 2007

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