Focusing on the literary representation of performance practices in anglophone, francophone, and hispanophone Caribbean literature, Jeannine Murray-Román shows how a shared regional aesthetic emerges from the descriptions of music, dance, and oral storytelling events. Because the historical circumstances that led to the development of performance traditions supersede the geopolitical and linguistic divisions of colonialism, the literary uses of these traditions resonate across the linguistic boundaries of the region. The author thus identifies the aesthetic that emerges from the act of writing about live arts and moving bodies as a practice that is grounded in the historically, geographically, and culturally specific features of the Caribbean itself.
Working with twentieth- and twenty-first-century sources ranging from theatrical works and novels to blogs, Murray-Román examines the ways in which writers such as Jacques Stephen Alexis, Zoé Valdés, Rosario Ferré, Patrick Chamoiseau, and Marlon James experiment with textually compensating for the loss of the corporeality of live relationship in performance traditions. Through their exploration of the interaction of literature and performance, she argues, Caribbean writers themselves offer a mode of bridging the disjunction between cultural and philosophical approaches within Caribbean studies.
Performance and Personhood in Caribbean Literature is a smart, theoretically rich, linguistically comprehensive, and beautifully written book on a topic that has vexed the study of Caribbean literature from the beginnings of its formation. Many scholars have tried this kind of comprehensive pan-Caribbean literary analysis, but few have been as successful as Murray-Román in crafting a book that engages questions of orality in such a wide range of linguistic contexts. The author’s innovative close readings of plays, novels, blog posts, and poetry are threaded together by a theoretical grid that takes seriously the many evocations of Caribbean embodiment as they are deployed in live theatre and the written text. This is the best example of what interdisciplinary, comparative literary scholarship should look like.