chapter  14
10 Pages

Sylvia Wynter: Insurgent Criticism and a Poetics of Disenchantment: Norval Edwards

Sylvia Wynter’s biography mirrors in many ways the heady political and cultural energies that heralded decolonization in the Caribbean. Born in Cuba in May 1928, Wynter grew up in Jamaica where she was educated at St Andrew’s High School for Girls. She won the 1946 Jamaica Centenary scholarship to King’s College London, where she obtained a B.A. in Spanish in 1949 and an M.A. in 1953. As a dancer, actress, playwright, novelist, academic, cultural theorist and one of the founders of Jamaica Journal, Wynter has had a long and fascinatingly varied contribution to Caribbean culture and criticism. While teaching at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies from 1963 to 1974, she established her reputation as a major cultural theorist in the first decade of independence with several provocative, analytically sophisticated and polemical essays that assailed extant critical and cultural norms in Caribbean criticism. Wynter eventually migrated to the United States to teach at the University of California, San Diego, and Stanford University, where she became a professor of Spanish in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese as well as chair of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies. Wynter’s essays, since the mid-1970s, broaden the range and scope of her theoretical concerns by moving from the specifics of Caribbean cultural polemics to more densely philosophical critiques of the foundational concepts of Western epistemology and ontology.