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Calypso MagnoliaThe Crosscurrents of Caribbean and Southern Literature$
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John Wharton Lowe

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781469628882

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469628882.001.0001

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A Proper Order of Attention

A Proper Order of Attention

McKay and Hurston Honor the Hardy Peasant

(p.198) 5 A Proper Order of Attention
Calypso Magnolia

John Wharton Lowe

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter draws attention to the ways in which folk culture and folklore have found differing but also similar registers among the writers of the U.S. South and the Caribbean. Chief examples are found in the Jamaican Claude McKay’s novel Banana Bottom, and a subsequent Florida-based novel it almost certainly influenced, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. Reading both as examples of female bildungsromans, this discussion concentrates on Bakhtin’s notions of the “testing” of key figures, carnivalization, and folk dialogics. Special attention is paid to the ways in which colonial culture on the island and Jim Crow imperatives in Florida had contrasting, but often similar effects. Gender, sexuality, and color distinctions within the races receive detailed examination as well. The relation of man/woman to nature is limned; the tropical sublime registers in terms of the awesome and terrible as hurricanes create havoc in both texts, but also clear the ground for new social constructions and human relations. McKay and Hurston’s poetics feature largely here as dynamic generators of narrative power. Actual events in Jamaica and Florida are configured, as well as Hurston’s research in the Caribbean (including Jamaica), and the fact that she wrote Their Eyes in Haiti.

Keywords:   “peasant” culture, folklore, Jamaica, color prejudice

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