Big Talk, Small Places: The Caribbean Epic
"As genre, the epic makes large and pretentious claims: it's very old, it's very big, it's a myth of national origins-even more, it's universal. In this talk, I will discuss V.S. Naipaul's A House for Mr. Biswas as epic, which it is generally conceded to be, but as a specifically Caribbean, even specifically East Indian West Indian-an Indo-Trinidadian--epic. It's big in the sense that it's long, but neither old, national, and only arguably universal. The East Indian community in Trinidad, historically the descendants of indentured servants, are numerically almost 50% of the island's population, but invisible in the cultural, national, and international imaginary. The Caribbean is imagined as an "African" space, a "Black" place. A House for Mr. Biswas is embedded in the absent space of Indo-Trinidad. Its epic thrust is to convert that absence into a specific place, a nationalist originary myth, and to make a claim to universalistic representation. It does so through an engagement with literary form, moving from the genre of the epic, which it parodies, to the novel, which is necessarily capitalist."
Location: Russell House All Rooms Sponsor: Center for the Humanities URL: Contact: Erinn Savage, firstname.lastname@example.org