For a man's house is his castle, et domus sua cuique est tutissimum refugium.
For the protection of your person, and of a few feet of your own property, it is lawful for you to take life, on so much suspicion as may arise from a shadow cast on the wrong side of your wall. But for the safety not of your own poor person, but of sixteen thousand men, women, and children … [and] a province involving in its safety that of all English possessions in the West Indies—for these minor ends it is not lawful for you to take a single life on suspicion, though the suspicion rest, not on a shadow on the wall, but on experience of the character and conduct of the accused during many years previous.
From the 1970s onwards, scholars have often argued that the revolutionary moment in Trinidadian literature took place in the 1930s. The Beacon group, which emerged in that decade from a coterie of Trinidadian writers, was perceived as an inspired, iconoclastic precursor to the internationally acclaimed 1950s generation of Caribbean writers. The 1930s therefore marked a new beginning in which Caribbean artists sought inspiration from local, creole culture and the common, “barefooted man”. However, post-1970s research, as has been discussed, has drawn attention to the Beacon group's occasional contradictions and conservatism, such as Alfred Mendes's devaluation of Africa's cultural wealth. The problematic schisms of the Beacon group add extra complexity to the historiography of Trinidadian literature and call for a closer reading of Port of Spain's literary geography. Rather than the monologic imposition of empire or the consistent march of progressive anti-colonialism, such contradictions act as a reminder of the fractious history and geography of the region. Mary Louise Pratt writes of the “contact zones … where disparate cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in highly asymmetrical relations of domination and subordination”. Peter Hulme similarly elucidates, “no smooth history emerges, but rather a series of fragments, which read speculatively and hint at a story that can never be fully recovered”.
This literary geography of western Trinidad has sought to explore a number of place-centred narratives which might otherwise be excluded from Trinidad's or Trinidad and Tobago's story. These include Trinidad's historic and literary relations with Venezuela in the nineteenth century, and archetypal and specific sites of literary interest like the yard, colonial house, oil rig, the suburbs, the port, the East–West Corridor, the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway and Woodford Square in the twentieth and twentieth-first centuries. While studies of Trinidadian and Trinbagonian literature examine some of these local sites, the emphasis is often on paradigms which roughly coincide with the shape of the modern state. In such analyses, there remains a tendency to overlook the commonalities or migratory flows between neighbouring islands and countries closely bound up with Trinidad geographically and culturally (and the wider Caribbean world reflected within it): Barbados, Grenada and St Vincent to the north, for example, Venezuela to the west, the Guianas to the south.
In more than one instance, this study makes an intervention in analyses which persist with the modern state as the unit for literary analysis—in part because literary spheres tend to operate, as Pascale Casanova reminds us, beyond or across political and state borders. Between the Bocas has drawn attention to the literary and imagined border crossings within, through and at the fringes of western Trinidad. So it reflects an imagined and persistent linkage of Trinidad to Venezuela through writers like Michel Maxwell Philip and Lawrence Scott and the island's connection to a broad network of the Lesser Antilles through E. L. Joseph and Eric Williams. While the epistemological approach may tend towards what Lyotard terms petits récits or localized narratives, the results of this study have yielded accounts which are thematically open to major historical trends of the region and across the globe.
Travel writing receives somewhat mixed treatment in the literary history of Trinidad. Froude, Kingsley and Trollope all serve as major Victorian reference points for Naipaul in The Middle Passage (and are often read as intertextual markers of Naipaul's essentially colonialist outlook), while even Walcott has described Kingsley's At Last as “one of the earliest books to admit the Antillean landscape and its figures into English literature”.
This chapter charts the cartographic and “literary mapping”—at once imaginative and real—of Trinidad over the long nineteenth century, from just prior to the date of its capture by the British in 1797 to the first decade of the twentieth century. The discussion stitches together different mappings and literary representations of the island, its topography, its landscape and its people. In particular, it investigates the mapping of the island and the projections of mimetic power encoded in such work as well as later challenges to the apparent authority of such cartographic endeavour. It follows in the vein of work by Tobias Döring, who has stated that both mapping and the narratives that cartography engenders shape the “imperial archive” in the Caribbean. “Whether or not this project is successful”, Döring writes, “colonial maps try to construct a comprehensive pattern in which the universal variety of the world … can be subsumed under a common symbolism and so become part of a single unifying text: an atlas of the world”. Yet, as Döring has noted, such universalist aims come with their own problems—which could be characterized as the issues of difference, Otherness and unfamiliarity regularly found in colonial discourse—all of which can serve to undermine the supposed power of the map. Cartographic and literary texts may signify a certain kind of legitimizing power, but each can be subverted and transgressed in different ways. This alternate side of the map's signification is gestured to in the latter part of the chapter—as the authority of the first map of Trinidad commissioned after its British capture was later cast in some considerable doubt by the writer E. L. Joseph.
This chapter contains four sections, the first of which deals with the cartographic and literary representations of Trinidad in its first phase of British rule. It argues that Britain's mapping of the land masked a latent colonial “Cartesian anxiety” concerning the unknown qualities of the territory. The second section investigates how the initial period of Trinidad's British rule, under its first British governor, Thomas Picton, exposes a narrative, however inadvertent, of disobedience to colonial authority. The court room, as Edward Said demonstrated, can produce “imaginative geography” and it is in this arena that Picton's drama unfolded.
Near the opening of Lawrence Scott's Witchbroom (1992), the narrator captures something of the significance of Trinidad's westerly oriented development. In contemplating the history of the New World, the narrator refers repeatedly to the two channels, the Bocas del Dragón and the Boca de la Sierpe, as the primary shipping routes into the Gulf of Paria, where travellers must land either on Trinidad's western fringe or on the South American mainland—“by the Boca de la Sierpe as did Columbus and his caravels; or from the north which brought the ghost ship through the Bouche du Dragon”—so depicting the link between “the archipelago”, “the island of Kairi” (an Amerindian name for Trinidad) and “the continent of Bolivar”. A little later on, the narrator recalls the island's colonial past from a perspective filtered by events in the Gulf of Paria, “the burning ships of Apadoca, the Spanish admiral” in surrender to the British in the late eighteenth century, “the ships … full of black human cargo” and the “Fatel Rozack from Calcutta” bringing indentured East Asians to Trinidad. “All come”, the narrator chimes solemnly, “through the channels of the Serpent's Mouth and through the Dragon's teeth into the Gulf of Sadness”.
This excerpt from Scott echoes a recurring geographical trope in V. S. Naipaul's work whereby the Gulf of Paria represents an aquatic meeting place—or “tidalectic” (“tidal dialectic”) as Kamau Brathwaite and, more recently, Elizabeth DeLoughrey have theorized—between the Orinoco and the Atlantic, connecting Trinidad to the South American mainland. As Rob Greenberg has illustrated, the Gulf occupies a resonant place in Naipaul's writing, its mingling of fresh water from the Orinoco River and salt water from the Atlantic symbolic of the New World and its hybridity. In The Middle Passage, The Loss of El Dorado and A Way in the World, Naipaul highlights “the frothy white line” in which these different, conflicting waters meet and, in doing so, draws attention to the tidal world that connects the island to the continent and extends beyond nations.
Within the ruling-classes themselves, a foreboding is dawning, that the present society is no solid crystal, but an organism capable of change, and is constantly changing.
Why, O God, do you leave a labourer in pain,
While happiness goes to the rich man who is proud,
So that for us suffering and misery reign?
Investigating the foundations of private property beyond the realms of the house, this chapter gestures towards a “geography of capitalism”. It examines the wider terrain of private property—material, abstract and mobile—in relation to flows of commodities, capital and labour forces in western Trinidad. In Marxian analysis, private ownership lies at the root of capitalism, acting as the driving force behind expropriated labour. In the American tropics, expropriated labour and produce began with the first European contact with the region. Settlers were quick to capitalize on the exportable natural products of the New World, while European tastes developed the market. Such trafficking revealed that imperialism was not only shaped by expansion, but also consumption, signifying not simply an empire-building project but, to paraphrase Sidney Mintz, an empire-swallowing.
In Sweetness and Power, Mintz argues that agricultural and economic exploitation in the Caribbean was fuelled by Europe's sweet tooth. In the early to mid-twentieth century the Caribbean plantation began to face new challenges. With no recourse to slave or indentured labour, the plantation was forced to compete in a global market in which the price of tropical commodities, such as sugar, was lowered by an increase of tropical agriculture worldwide and the production of northern substitutes for tropical products. In the case of sugar, beet became a northern rival to tropical cane, its production accounting for roughly 60% of total world output by 1900.
Against such tropical and global competition and the effective closure of the US market to British West Indian sugar, Trinidad's sugar industry began to wane. Conversely, while sugar profits fell, cocoa planters enjoyed record profits throughout the first quarter of the twentieth century, particularly during the First World War, when the cessation of transatlantic shipping to Europe caused prices to soar. It was a period when “Cocoa was King” in Trinidad, a phrase which recurs in Lawrence Scott's novel Witchbroom and his short story “Malgrétout”.
Now do you think that this is right
For de woman to peep at me one night
There was a hole in the partition
By my bed which I kept from observation
And do you know, as the partition was low
She climb up and peep and so
The next morning she had the whole yard hot
With all that she saw and the devil knows what.
In 1927, Walter “Railway” Douglas wrote and performed the calypso “Why Mih Neighbour Vex with Me”. The verse from the hit calypso quoted in the epigraph describes a jealous neighbour spying on the calypsonianprotagonist's bedroom within a yard. Here the yard is presented as a place of dangerous jealousies, voyeurism and sexual encounter. Above and beyond this, it appears to be a porous site where private and public boundaries dissolve and blur. There are no walled rooms in which inhabitants are hermetically sealed from prying eyes, only partitions with apertures that allow for observation and eavesdropping; sex is made visible and what is clandestine is easily exposed.
Taking its lead from Douglas's calypso, this chapter mines the literary foundations and definitions of the Trinidadian urban yard and marks the psychosocial “spatial” dynamics often associated with a locus which disturbs the boundaries between public and private, open and closed, discrete and indiscrete. The 1920s–1930s “yard” literature pioneered by the Beacon group, a literary circle spearheaded by Albert Gomes, C. L. R. James and Alfred Mendes, forms the primary discussion. The Beacon group's fiction is contextualized particularly against the backdrop of literary Modernism, and other literary and cultural forms—namely journalism and calypso—to illustrate the interrelated portraits of the yard and its predominant image as a working-class, or even underclass, abode and subject. Often closed and cramped, the yard dwelling, it is argued, features in Trinidadian writing and song as a site in which susceptibility to spatial disorders—claustrophobia in particular—is increased and where transgressive acts—social, sexual and criminal—are played out.
For I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord.
Meh lil brodder
ah see yuh goin
wid dat gun
in your hand
Yuh trippin softly
on de bloody soil
across dis land
yuh own birthland
trippin to mournful joy.
This book has covered a large sweep of Trinidadian terra firma and literary history, ranging from the Blue Basin waterfall that Froude encountered in Diego Martin—the village north of the capital which is Zampi's home in Khan's The Obeah Man—to the southwestern city of San Fernando and satellite places in which the oil industry sprung up (Pointe-à-Pierre, Fyzabad and Point Fortin, to name a few). This final chapter covers Trinidad in the postcolonial era, taking Port of Spain and the seats and symbols of power as it mains focus: Trinidad's parliamentary building, the Red House, and Woodford Square, an historic site of political speech-making and rallies. Eric Williams features as a central figure who shepherded Trinidad and Tobago into independence, and, accordingly, occupied prime political forums of power generally concentrated—as is common in modern states—in the capital city. The chapter analyses Williams as both a writer, examining his History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago and his memoir Inward Hunger: The Education of a Prime Minister (1969), and as a figure within literary fiction, in particular in Monique Roffey's The White Woman on the Green Bicycle and Earl Lovelace's novels. In tackling Williams's legacy through his own writing and others’—and shifting from non-fiction to fiction—the discussion also incorporates figures and events often bound up with the pressure points in his career: the Black Power movement of the 1970s and prominent figures within it, such as Geddes Granger (later known as Makandal Daaga), who founded the student-led National Joint Action Committee (NJAC).
I will go to the city where there are streetlights, and I will ride in the tramcars. I will buy many fine things in the shops, and when I come back to Kumaca, you will not recognize me.
I damn the dream
‘Mid the arc-light's glare and motor's zoom
And factories puffing their pipes on the blue Caribbean air—
A gayer Port Royal in a gaseous doom.
Still ‘tis golden,
As velvet night flaunts her stars
And pale roses pour
An attar note
Into the lyrical yam in the hill.
The dichotomy of the corrupt city versus the idyllic countryside remains a powerful literary metaphor. From Juvenal's satirical reflections on the corruption of Rome—“What can I do in Rome? I never learnt how / To lie”—to the natural sublime of Wordsworth and Coleridge, the unspoilt country versus the spoilt city is just one form of a dominant mythology that has long had a hold on the literary imagination. Analysing this rhetoric in his masterful The Country and the City, Raymond Williams is one of the most prominent critics to have challenged the ostensibly polarized vision of the urban and rural. His central thesis is that the country and city are not so much discrete locales, but rather are imbricated and interconnected. As Williams observed of England, the movement of agricultural produce into organized, central hubs served both rural and urban interests. This interaction or mutual interest of trade and exchange led to the augmentation of feudal marketplaces to towns and the rapid development of new industrial cities, particularly in northern England. The importance of access to waterways for merchants—seminal to the development of many ancient empires, including the Egyptian, Persian and Roman—also contributed to the growth of merchant settlements. In Western Europe around the ninth and tenth centuries, the Latin term portus, from which the word “port” derives, began to be used to describe the merchant town.
Virginia Woolf has come to be known, among other things, for her portraits of the modern mind in urban transit. Indeed, the figure of the flâneur, the nineteenthcentury man-at-leisure described by Walter Benjamin as a distinctly modern figure who walks the streets to survey the urban landscape from a purely observational perspective, emerges as a specific trope in many moments of Woolf 's fiction, as seen in the characters of Peter Walsh of Mrs. Dalloway (1925) or his later counterpart, Martin Pargiter, in The Years (1937). Female flâneuses likewise stalk the fictive landscapes of her fiction and essays, perhaps most notably Clarissa Dalloway in Mrs. Dalloway, but also the anonymous narrator of A Room of One's Own (1929), or even the historical flâneuse heroine of Orlando (1928). The figure of the flâneuse, or the female version of the traditionally male street-walker, the flâneur, has herself also been the subject of several studies in feminist approaches to modernist literature by scholars like Deborah Parsons or Janet Wolff, who argue in different ways regarding the viability of such a category as a way to interrogate “a particular mode of female urban vision” (Parsons 6). Interestingly, within the sidelong views of imperial British life cast by other flâneur or flâneuse-like narrators in the works of Virginia Woolf and her female contemporaries, including Una Marson, Katherine Mansfield, and Jean Rhys, appear a surprisingly frequent crop of marginalized female characters, their appearance often bordering on the grotesque: widows, abandoned women, immigrant transplants, chorus girls, West Indian servants, and even masked walkers of the carnival. These figures frequently disrupt aspirationally authoritative narratives of the imperial everyday with their unexpected, often wildly anarchic, presence. Looking specifically at Woolf and Marson, two writers who most explicitly deploy the flâneurial perspective, I argue in this paper that the insistent presence of similarly marginal figures, often foreign, often abject, within the perspective of the flâneur-, or, more often, flâneuse-like, narrators in the works of these female modernists constitutes part of a larger self-reflexive commentary generated by such authors on the precarious status of British women writers as newly arrived observers, urban or otherwise, within a patriarchal imperial complex.
Throughout the first section of To the Lighthouse (1927), Mrs. Ramsay is preoccupied with playing the role of matchmaker for the various guests at her house. Over the course of the day, the idea that “people must marry” becomes almost a mantra for her, repeated in several different instances. Lily Briscoe, for example, remembers Mrs. Ramsay “insist[ing] that she must, Minta must, they all must marry” (49). And when Mrs. Ramsay sees Lily walking alongside William Bankes, she is quick to see a possible match: “Ah, but was that not Lily Briscoe strolling along with William Bankes? She focused her short-sighted eyes upon the backs of a retreating couple. Yes, indeed it was. Did that not mean that they would marry? Yes, it must! What an admirable idea! They must marry!” (71). What is notable about Mrs. Ramsay's statements is not so much her desire to forge romantic unions between her friends and acquaintances but rather her construction of marriage as a mandate, as something all people “must” do.
Indeed, in the first section of the novel, Mrs. Ramsay acts as a force that pushes forward this marriage agenda. Even Paul Rayley, after he has proposed to his future wife Minta, thinks: “He would go straight to Mrs. Ramsay, because he felt somehow that she was the person who had made him do it” (78). In her insistence that “people must marry” (and, later, that “people must have children”), Mrs. Ramsay seeks to place the other characters in the novel on their proper narrative track. She seems to conceive of life as a series of stages that individuals move through toward a predetermined endpoint. Happiness is predicated on moving through these stages properly and arriving at the finish line. She even tells Lily “there could be no disputing this: an unmarried woman…an unmarried woman had missed the best of life” (49).
Mrs. Ramsey, of course, is not as simple as I portray her here. While she literally does urge multiple characters to marry, she is not merely an uncritical purveyor of this idea. She recognizes that she “was driven on, too quickly she knew, almost as if it were an escape for her too, to say that people must marry; people must have children” (60).
Perhaps not surprisingly, two of Virginia Woolf 's female cousins—the daughters of Leslie Stephen's brother James Fitzjames Stephen—espoused their father's faith in the British Empire's superiority and its colonial obligations in the waning decades of British rule. Though Dorothea (1871–1965) and Rosamond (1868–1951) added a Christian missionary zeal Fitzjames had abandoned early in his career, both chose to pursue vocations in countries (India and Ireland) in which their father had worked and lived and about which he deplored democratic reform in letters to The Times. Here I examine Woolf 's lifelong hostility to Dorothea and Rosamond in light of their work in British India and Ireland from the early 1900s to the 1930s. My goal is less to vindicate Dorothea and Rosamond than to present them as paradoxically conservative and progressive examples of a British ethos during an era of war and crumbling empire.
Dorothea, youngest of the ten Stephen children, was born in India in July 1871 during her father's two-year residence in Calcutta as legal member of the Colonial Council (1869–1872). As an adult, Dorothea would spend twenty-three years (1914–1937) in southern India near Madras as a Christian theology teacher and writer of several religious books, the best known of which, Studies in Early Indian Thought (1919), received a lukewarm review in the Times Literary Supplement. After Fitzjames returned from India, the family spent every summer from 1875 to 1892 at Anaverna in Ravensdale, County Louth, Ireland. Rosamond Stephen, who would later live in Belfast from 1912 to 1919 and then in Dublin until 1932, traced her vocation as an active Church of Ireland worker to her childhood visits to the Roman Catholic cottagers on the county estate her family rented. She recorded over three decades of her life in Ireland during the turbulent times before the Easter Rebellion of 1916 through the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1921 and the Constitution of Eire in 1937 in a mostly unpublished, two-volume, typescript manuscript she titled The Record.
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