Cultural and gender politics in a neglected archive of Jamaican women's poetry : Una Marson and her Creole contemporaries
This thesis considers the gender and cultural politics of selected Jamaican women's poetry published during the first half of the twentieth century and seeks to establish that an approach to this poetry sensitive to these issues will illuminate aspects of their work previously neglected by canonical and colonial modes of interpretation. The central interest of this thesis is the poetry of Una Marson, a black woman poet whose work has been critically neglected and devalued to date. My project is to read Marson's work in some detail, and to explore to what extent her poetry, which often works within colonial models and with conventional notions of feminine fulfilment, employs received aesthetic and ideological paradigms both strategically and subversively. In the belief that critics of Jamaican women's writing should be as attentive to the gender and cultural politics of their ways of reading, as of the texts they wish to read, the first chapter of this thesis engages in a sustained analysis of theoretical positions and attempts to map out the various problems and possibilities which critical discourses present in relation to this material. The second chapter examines the various social and literary contexts in which Jamaican poetry was produced and received during this period, and the third chapter looks in more detail at contemporary notions of aesthetic and cultural forms. The fourth and fifth chapters are structured aromd close textual readings which explore the variety and complexity of Marson's, and her Creole contemporaries', poetic engagement with the issues of cultural and gender identities. The thesis concludes that Marson's poetry questions dominant notions both of identity and of aesthetics, and consequently that her poetry offers an example of Jamaican literary expression which moves beyond the nationalization of consciousness which has come to mark the literary achievement of this period.