chapter  3
17 Pages

Embodied Selves

For James, West Indian nationalism is expressed in significant measure through the medium of the Body. Insofar as cricket is a physical contest, it allows a distinctively Caribbean identity to be asserted through the particular styles in which West Indians play the game, notably in batting and bowling. Equally, Behan’s rebellion against nationalism, in the name of other kinds of community, is often expressed through (the erotic energies of ) his body. To this extent, embodiment is clearly an important thematic of some auto/biographical subjectivity, even if it is one which, feminist critics have complained, has been largely ignored within mainstream Auto/biography Studies. Sidonie Smith, for example, suggests that in their concern to promote a putatively universal Subject, male critics have historically conceived of auto/biographical Selfhood ‘irrespective of or despite the bodily surround’.1 Gilmore claims that this emphasis derives from canonical autobiography itself, where the Body is ‘so frequently absent’ as a subject of investigation; insofar as it is present, she argues, corporality ‘has functioned as a metaphor for soul, consciousness, intellect, and imagination’, rather than a material and cultural reality.2 Feminist critics often explain this in terms of the genre’s roots in the confessional tradition of Christianity, which privileges the life of the Spirit over that of the Body, a dualism inherited by secular philosophy from the time of the Renaissance. Thus, for Descartes, according to Shirley Neuman, the Self is represented as something ‘whose whole essence or nature is only to think, and which, to exist, has no need of space nor of any material thing or body’.3