Textual communities in Guyana: a 'nearly go so' literary history



Robinson G (2013) Textual communities in Guyana: a 'nearly go so' literary history. Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 48 (1), pp. 77-96.

This article seeks to make precise some of the challenges faced by Caribbean bibliography. I focus on two periods and texts in twentieth century Guyana: N.E. Cameron’s 1931 anthology, Guianese Poetry, Covering the Hundred Years’ Period, 1831-1931, and early 1950s issues of Thunder, the journal of the socialist anticolonial People’s Progressive Party. Attending to these publications could lead to a narrative about Guyana’s transformation from a cultural hub within the British Empire to a centre of anticolonial politics and poetics. This is part of the way we can view them, but transitions between the colonial and anticolonial do not emerge neatly. When we think more about Guyana through the lens of textual culture we build a picture of practices and values that cut across place and period. Paradoxically, even regarding the twentieth century, we cannot rely only on what Jerome J. McGann calls our inescapable “textual condition” to understand Caribbean textual culture. I show how the literary interests evidenced inGuianese PoetryandThundercan lead us towards a local history of the book that takes seriously overlapping textual and non-textual perspectives. In doing so, we can chart more clearly the rise of poetry in colonial Guyana, an emerging national poetics, and the knotted poetics and politics of Empire, slavery, and anticolonialism. Guyana’s complicated and often contradictory textual cultures, I argue, must be sited locally and transnationally, and in order to assess them we must stay attuned to the ways that sites of textual culture connect authors, editors, publishers, and audiences. To adapt Erna Brodber’s approach to writing village histories, what we arrive at is the beginnings of a “nearly go so” literary history – a history that is sensitive to the inconsistencies between archival data, cultural memory, and oral testimony.

Caribbean bibliography; Guyana; Guyanese Poetry; history of the book; N.E. Cameron; People’s Progressive Party

Journal of Commonwealth Literature: Volume 48, Issue 1

Publication date31/03/2013

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Dr Gemma Robinson
Dr Gemma Robinson

Senior Lecturer, English Studies