The Eclectic Generation: Caribbean Literary Criticism at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century: Nadia Ellis
The notion of lineage implied by the phrase ‘Critical Generations’, the heading of this section, creates an opportunity to examine a through-line of contemporary Caribbean criticism from its beginnings to the inheritors who reconsider its earliest assumptions. In this chapter, the temporality of the last decade – roughly considered from the earliest mumblings of millennial unease in the late 1990s through to the present – is yet another way to mark the progression of criticism in this era. The critics of Caribbean literature I consider here have coped with the demands of theory and expanded the regional remit of the ‘Caribbean’. Whilst their publications display a dazzling variety of style and theme – this entry is, after all, titled ‘The Eclectic Generation’ – nevertheless, these critics share certain thematic preoccupations, theoretical investments and a marked inclination towards revision. They foreground gender – masculinity in particular – as a salient and hitherto unmarked term in Caribbean literature and culture. They think about the obfuscations of nationalism, and use sexuality, and increasingly queer sexuality, as a way to understand the processes of instantiating, maintaining and transforming West Indian nations. Indeed, the nation, as such, comes under much scrutiny in the work of recent critics of Caribbean literature. As the promise of independent nation states began to cede ground in the late twentieth century to the apparently inexorable growth of global capital, critics have re-considered what was at stake in the crafting of the independent island nations. Several critics have also thought more broadly about what ‘the Caribbean’ means, regionally and conceptually, moving from an anglophone West Indian/Commonwealth approach to one that thinks more expansively about historical, cultural and aesthetic connections across borders and within the ‘First World’. These turns towards gender and sexuality studies and towards diasporic and pan-Caribbean approaches to Caribbean literary studies have been accompanied by at least one other: a striking methodological shift
towards the incorporation of cultural studies approaches into more traditional literary criticism.