Disturbers of the Peace
Representations of Madness in Anglophone Caribbean Literature
Kelly Baker Josephs
Exploring the prevalence of madness in Caribbean texts written in English in the mid-twentieth century, Kelly Baker Josephs focuses on celebrated writers such as Jean Rhys, V. S. Naipaul, and Derek Walcott as well as on understudied writers such as Sylvia Wynter and Erna Brodber. Because mad figures appear frequently in Caribbean literature from French, Spanish, and English traditions—in roles ranging from bit parts to first-person narrators—the author regards madness as a part of the West Indian literary aesthetic. The relatively condensed decolonization of the anglophone islands during the 1960s and 1970s, she argues, makes literature written in English during this time especially rich for an examination of the function of madness in literary critiques of colonialism and in the Caribbean project of nation-making.
In drawing connections between madness and literature, gender, and religion, this book speaks not only to the field of Caribbean studies but also to colonial and postcolonial literature in general. The volume closes with a study of twenty-first-century literature of the Caribbean diaspora, demonstrating that Caribbean writers still turn to representations of madness to depict their changing worlds.
Kelly Baker Josephs is a consummate reader, and Disturbers of the Peace is realized with richness of interpretation and elegance of exposition. She has a wide knowledge of the Caribbean literary canon and an especially subtle ability to explore and illuminate the fictive worlds of the Caribbean novel.
Josephs (York College) explores the treatment of madness as a recurring trope in Anglophone Caribbean literature. Taking advantage of the generally indeterminate use of the word, Josephs introduces different manifestations of psychic disturbance and investigates how they shape and influence the form and content of five books written between 1959 and 1980.
Kelly Baker Josephs is Associate Professor of English at York College, CUNY.