Review of Raphael Dalleo’s Caribbean Literature and the Public Sphere: From the Planation to the Postcolonial (University of Virginia Press, 2011)


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“This comprehensive study explores the ways in which Caribbean literature has responded to and shaped the region's history of domination and resistance. Dalleo (Florida Atlantic Univ.) traces Caribbean literary history from the mid-19th century to the present by examining English-, French-, and Spanish-language literary works. In part 1, which covers 1804 to 1886, the author adapts Angel Rama's concept of the "republic of the lettered" (The Lettered City, 1996), focusing on abolitionist and anticolonial writers, their works, and their relationships to the public sphere. Because a small group monopolized the written word, entry into the public sphere demanded the approval of this literate elite. Later works came to suggest a discursive possibility outside the "republic of the lettered." In part 2 (1886-1959), the author turns to post-abolition works to elucidate how Caribbean writers, in response to modern colonialism, sought to tie literature with nationalist, anticolonial movements. Part 3 (1959-83) transitions away from colonialism to Caribbean postcolonial literature. Dalleo points out that whereas authors such as José Martí considered the writer's role in governing indispensable, postcolonial writers--believing their intellectual labor oppositional--often found themselves at odds with nationalist movements. A valuable contribution to Caribbean studies. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.” -- Y. Fuentes, Nova Southeastern University