LITR 5734: Lucy Discussion
“When I was quite young and just being taught to read, the books I was taught to read from were the Bible, Paradise Lost, and some plays by William Shakespeare. I knew well the Book of Genesis, and from time to time I had been made to memorize parts of Paradise Lost. The stories of the fallen were well known to me, but I had not known that my own situation could even distantly be related them. Lucy, a girl’s name for Lucifer. That my mother would have found me devil-like did not surprise me, for I often thought of her as god-like, and are not the children of gods devils? I did not grow to like the name Lucy—I would have much preferred to be called Lucifer outright—but whenever I saw my name I always reached out to give it a strong embrace” (153).
Binary Oppositions challenged in Lucy:
Master / Slave
Language, Education, Recitation (11, 12, 19, 33, 82, 129, 131, 136-37, 152)
“…recitation…is depicted as both a technology of interpellation and metonymic of the Anglo-colonialist erasure of the black Caribbean female body….The reciting of poetry…was also an effective mode of moral, spiritual and political inculcation. The English ‘tongue’…was learned ‘by heart’…[Thus] passive colonials might absorb the lessons of the master, but through memorizing the English script…Recitation is thus a ritual act of obedience” (Tiffin 913).
How is this similar to or different from other Post-colonial texts?
Compare/contrast with Chinua Achebe’s comments on African language.
Name/Voice/Identity/Autonomy (3-5, 9, 34, 36, 51, 64, 89, 102, 110, 134, 147, 153, 163)
“For future generations of writers, especially the Romantics, it is Lucifer who best represents the drive for autonomy within the social and cosmic orders. Thus, not only did Milton help to inaugurate a particular literary and cultural notion of autonomy, but he also encompassed that notion in a limited taxonomy of possible selves. He engendered a cultural system of signs by which those who attempt to achieve autonomous selfhood inevitably come to name themselves ‘Lucifer’…” (Lamb 306).
“Does it ever occur to these universities to try out their game of changing names of characters and places in an American novel, say, a Philip Roth or an Updike, and slotting in African names just to see how it works? But of course it would not occur to them. It would never occur to them to doubt the universality of their own literature. In the nature of things the work of a Western writer is automatically informed by universality. It is only others who must strain to achieve it. So-and so’s work is universal; he has truly arrived! As though universality were some distant bend in the road which you may take if you travel out far enough in the direction of Europe of America, if you put adequate distance between yourself and your home” (Achebe 59).
Does Lucy meet the Western standard of universality that Achebe discusses? What would Lucy say? What would Jamaica Kincaid say?
Consumption/Excess/Food/Capitalism (5, 22, 35, 38*, 57, 72-73, 86-87, 99, 105-106, 110, 112, 113, 124, 129, 134, 143, 154, 162)
“The Neo-Europes are intriguing for reasons other than the disharmony between their locations and the racial and cultural identity of most of their people. These lands attract…the unblinking envious gaze—of most of humanity because of their food surpluses….I do not claim that this plenty has been evenly distributed: the poor are poor in the Neo-Europes…but I do insist that the people of the Neo-Europes almost universally believe that great material affluence can and should be attained by everyone, particularly in matters of diet. In Christ’s Palestine, the multiplication of the loaves and fishes was a miracle; in the Neo-Europes it is expected…” (Crosby 419, 422).
What is Kincaid’s point regarding consumption and natural resources? What is significance of this from a “second wave” Poco standpoint?
Achebe, Chinua. “Colonialist Criticism.” The Post-Colonial Reader. Eds. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, Helen Tiffin. New York: Routledge, 1997, 57-61.
Crosby, Alfred W. “Ecological Imperialsim.” (1986). The Post-Colonial Reader. Eds. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, Helen Tiffin. New York: Routledge, 1997, 418-422.
Lamb, John B. “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Milton’s Monstrous Myth” Nineteenth-Century Literature 47 (1992): 303-319.
Tiffin, Helen. “Cold Hearts and (Foreign) Tongues: Recitatio and the Reclamation of the Female Body in the Words of Erna Brodber and Jamaica Kincaid.” Callaloo 16 (1993): 909-921.