Literature and cultural pluralism : East Indians in the Caribbean

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This study explores the position, of imaginative literature in the ethnically plural societies of Trinidad and Guyana in the Caribbean. It examines the extent to which the production of imaginative literature has been marked by the same ethnic divisions which have bedevilled the political, social and cultural life of these societies. For reasons explained in Chapter One, the study focuses mainly on the literature by writers from and about the Indian section of the population. However, the study is concerned not only with the way that the context of ethnic and cultural fragmentation has affected a good deal of the writing produced in these societies, but also with the smaller number of works, mainly of fiction, which contribute to a much-needed understanding of these societies by bringing the lives of both major groups into a common focus. I argue that it is not enough to describe the differences between the two types of writing merely in terms of the presence or absence of ethnocentric biases, and discuss both the conceptual frameworks within which works of fiction may be felt to give'truthfullknowledge and the conventions of representation which most effectively communicate that knowledge to the reader. The thesis is divided into four sections. The first develops the argument that in much of the fiction examined there has been a connexion between ethnocentric biases, an empiricist epistemology and conventions of representation which are defined later as naturalistic. Parts Two and Three present a detailed examination of this proposition by analysing the works of Indian and non-Indian authors. The fourth part discusses those novels which go beyond the presentation of ethnically fragmented images by constructing fictive worlds which attempt to encompass the social whole. Such novels are shown to have a self-awareness of their epistemological and cultural assumptions, and in some cases an awareness that the real but hidden structures of society may only be incompletely or falsely experienced by the novel's characters. I show that such concerns with attempting to portray the real social whole, frequently intersect with an intense involvement, on the part of the author, with the aesthetic structuring and verbal texture of the novel.

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