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Title: Narratives of Obeah in twentieth-century Anglophone West Indian literature
Author: Rodriques, Janelle Alicia
ISNI:       0000 0004 6352 4549
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis examines representations of Obeah, the name given to a range of African-inspired, syncretic Caribbean religious practices, in novels and short stories written by authors born in the former British West Indies. Ranging from the late 1920s to the late1980s, these texts’ plots all systematically engage with these practices in their narrations of West Indian nation and national identity. My study focuses on how each of these texts narrates Obeah vis-à-vis the wider concerns of modernity, cultural identity, nationhood and colonial alienation, and realigns the discussion of Obeah aesthetics with debates around what has been designated ‘the folk’ in Caribbean literary criticism. Through detailed, comparative readings of the works of several authors, this study not only recovers the neglected trope of Obeah in West Indian fiction, but also argues Obeah’s integrity to the elaboration of a uniquely regional literary and cultural aesthetic. Chapter One examines the use of Obeah in barrack-yard fiction, and its implications for the myth of a unified, homogenous nation. Chapter Two explores the representation of Obeah in short stories of the late 1930s into the 1950s, and their concerns with Obeah’s place in the new nations they imagine. Chapter Three reads Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) and Claude McKay’s Banana Bottom (1934) as critiques of the primitive/modern aesthetic and cultural binary; I argue that Obeah is narrated, in these novels, from the threshold of these extremes. Chapter Four examines three novels written around Independence, featuring single male protagonists whose negotiations of Obeah are analogous for national negotiations of selfhood. Chapter Five focuses on Erna Brodber’s Myal (1988), which manipulates ‘African’ spirituality in its ‘quarrel with history.’ These novels all, in addressing Obeah, reimagine these practices as integral to, while also challenging, the idea of West Indian nationhood and identity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available