Caryl Phillips is the most acclaimed British living writers of Caribbean origin and his output has constantly focussed on issues of belonging, origins, displacement, dramatizing the condition of unbelonging and identitarian loss (and particularly of the African diaspora and the slave trade) with novelistic strategies that can be broadly ascribed to postmodernism and postcolonialism. His ambitious historical novel The Nature of Blood (1997) features a rewrite of Othello and two narratives of the Jewish diaspora set respectively in the fifteenth century and in 1948, and his recent The Lost Child (2015) combines three narrative threads: a sort of prequel to Wuthering Heights – a crucial intertext in Philips’ literary Bildung and a key text in late twentieth-century literary representations of British identity – a dramatization of Charlotte Bronte’s last days and an ill-fated love story between a black Caribbean and a middle-class English woman in 1950s England. This essay will investigate how Phillips’ literary agenda valorises the apparently unstable connection of the rewrite with the original as a subtle critique to the idea of the intertext itself as a source of cultural memory. Much like the two literary models – Othello and Heathcliff – are displaced, other, and ultimately self-consciously destructive characters, Phillips’ contemporary subjects – which include the traditional figures of the orphan and the outcast and exile – remain adrift in environments which either erase or displace their identitarian heritage and their possibility to belong. The intertext is thus no longer a cardinal feature in the construction of the new text, postcolonial/postmodern/neo-historical, in so far as it constitutes the object of a revisionist process, but rather a pre-text, where hints and elements of ambiguity, instability and ambivalence are retrieved, amplified and transfigured to produce a critique of the West’s own displaced history of oppression and amnesia.

The Exhausted Intertext as Cultural Memory: Erased and Displaced Identities in Caryl Phillips’ The Nature of Blood and The Lost Child

Roberta Gefter Wondrich
2020-01-01

Abstract

Caryl Phillips is the most acclaimed British living writers of Caribbean origin and his output has constantly focussed on issues of belonging, origins, displacement, dramatizing the condition of unbelonging and identitarian loss (and particularly of the African diaspora and the slave trade) with novelistic strategies that can be broadly ascribed to postmodernism and postcolonialism. His ambitious historical novel The Nature of Blood (1997) features a rewrite of Othello and two narratives of the Jewish diaspora set respectively in the fifteenth century and in 1948, and his recent The Lost Child (2015) combines three narrative threads: a sort of prequel to Wuthering Heights – a crucial intertext in Philips’ literary Bildung and a key text in late twentieth-century literary representations of British identity – a dramatization of Charlotte Bronte’s last days and an ill-fated love story between a black Caribbean and a middle-class English woman in 1950s England. This essay will investigate how Phillips’ literary agenda valorises the apparently unstable connection of the rewrite with the original as a subtle critique to the idea of the intertext itself as a source of cultural memory. Much like the two literary models – Othello and Heathcliff – are displaced, other, and ultimately self-consciously destructive characters, Phillips’ contemporary subjects – which include the traditional figures of the orphan and the outcast and exile – remain adrift in environments which either erase or displace their identitarian heritage and their possibility to belong. The intertext is thus no longer a cardinal feature in the construction of the new text, postcolonial/postmodern/neo-historical, in so far as it constitutes the object of a revisionist process, but rather a pre-text, where hints and elements of ambiguity, instability and ambivalence are retrieved, amplified and transfigured to produce a critique of the West’s own displaced history of oppression and amnesia.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11368/2964073
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