Tubman Talks:“The BBC and the Development of Anglophone Caribbean Literature, 1943-58”

Dr. Glyne Griffith will present a paper entitled, “The BBC and the Development of Anglophone Caribbean Literature, 1943-58”on 21 April 2016 at the Harriet Tubman Institute from 2:30-4:00.


Griffith_Pass 2crop jpegGlyne Griffith completed undergraduate studies in English and Political Science at the City University of New York (CUNY) and graduate studies (MA and Ph.D.) in English at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica. His publications include Deconstruction, Imperialism and the West Indian Novel and Color, Hair and Bone: Race in the 21st Century, co-edited with Sociologist, Linden Lewis.He is Associate Professor and Chair of the department of English at the University At Albany, state University of New York and serves as Associate Editor of the Journal of West Indian Literature.

This lecture briefly examines the history of the BBC literary radio program, “Caribbean Voices” that was broadcast to the English-speaking Caribbean from 1943 to 1958. I assess the influence of the radio broadcasts on Anglophone Caribbean, post-war literature over the fifteen-year period of the program’s existence and argue that the BBC “Caribbean Voices” had a significant impact on the shape of the burgeoning literature. Because it was a radio broadcast, an aural rather than scribal medium employed for the dissemination of literature, the program highlighted the oral dimension of the developing literature so that regional vernaculars, or what historian and poet Kamau Brathwaite would later call “nation language,” came to dominate the literature and give it its particular aesthetic imprimatur. I also analyze the ideological bent and editorial practices of Henry Swanzy, the program’s most influential editor, to argue that his emphasis on what he termed “local color” further encouraged aspiring writers in the region to focus on literary representations that privileged a territorial rather than regional aesthetic. I then conclude with the proposition that this emphasis on territorial vernaculars in the burgeoning post-war literature highlighted territorial rather than regional nationalism and thus imaginatively worked against the idea of federal nationalism, that version of nationalism that the British government of the day favored for the region and sought to encourage, ironically, by means of BBC radio broadcasts to the region.

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