chapter
Introduction
Pages 16

In the quotation above, the poet E. Kamau Brathwaite employs a telling literary short-hand to say something about white women in the eighteenth-and nineteenth-century West Indies.1 Firstly, he notes that they came in three familiar models. There is Miranda, Shakespeare’s beautiful, virginal symbol of desirable English/European womanhood. Miranda is a younger version of Miss Ann, whose respectful title evokes the plantation mistress, the pious but firm lady of the Great House. Then there is Antoinette, the disturbed white creole of Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea (1968) who, associated as she is with black culture, occupies a more indeterminate space in colonial mythology. Secondly, Brathwaite claims that their lives and experiences formed no part of the narrative record. White men did not write them into the official discourse of colonial rule, because they had no official part in the project; and they could not or did not write about themselves until centuries later (the 1990s). I want to start with this apparent absence of white women’s narrative voices from West Indian literary history, and proceed by questioning what such “silence” might in fact articulate.