By Emily Greenwood
Afro-Greeks examines the reception of Classics within the English-speaking Caribbean, from approximately 1920 to the start of the twenty first century. Emily Greenwood specializes in the ways that Greco-Roman antiquity has been positioned to artistic use in Anglophone Caribbean literature, and relates this local classical culture to the academic context, particularly the best way Classics used to be taught within the colonial tuition curriculum. Discussions of Caribbean literature are likely to think an hostile courting among Classics, that is handled as a legacy of empire, and Caribbean literature. whereas acknowledging this imperial and colonial backstory, Greenwood argues that Caribbean writers similar to Kamau Brathwaite, C. L. R. James, V. S. Naipaul, and Derek Walcott have effectively appropriated Classics and tailored it to the cultural context of the Caribbean, making a special, neighborhood tradition.
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Extra resources for Afro-Greeks: Dialogues between Anglophone Caribbean Literature and Classics in the Twentieth Century
53 He subsequently glosses this American aesthetic as ‘this free-form choice . . 54 And yet, speaking about Omeros in a 1990 interview, Walcott was quick to dismiss the notion that ancient Greece might supply a frame of reference for his poem: ‘How could I wish to join a classical tradition when where I was had nothing to do with the vegetation, people, or anything remotely referential to Greece 51 See C. L. R. James’s review of Walcott’s In a Green Night in the Trinidad Guardian (James 1962): ‘The appearance of such a volume at this time when we are piling up evidence of what we are not, is a powerful indication of our competence in ﬁelds where the only reward is usually the expression of a vocation.
The fact that James had been Williams’s mentor shows up the divergence in the ways in which the two men appealed to Athens and the divergent conclusions that they drew from their study of the past. In turn, I argue that this divergence illustrates the complex cultural politics of appropriating the past. e. to serve the national self) in the Caribbean by pointing to the kind of colonial ﬁctions that Naipaul exposes in A Bend in the River (see p. ’55 And yet, for James’s and Williams’s purposes in the political arena, they could not afford to expose the illusions and half-ﬁctions in their own appropriations of the ancient Greek past, thereby undermining their commitment to the openness of Athenian democratic culture, which was one of the features that they championed when positing analogies between Athens and popular political participation in Trinidad.
3 At the risk of comparing small things with great, I propose that the travel writings studied here be included in this larger ‘history of catastrophe’, understood as everything that the Caribbean has suffered. 4 Based on African music and performance culture, and its variations in the African diaspora, Snead suggested that black culture(s) have evolved the capacity to integrate sudden changes into a system based on cyclical repetition, assimilating and containing contingency within broader patterns of recurrence.