Caribbean and Southern Literatures
Summary and Keywords
Transnationalism and Global Studies have exploded old notions of artificial cultural boundaries, opening to view the myriad cross currents between the U.S. South and the Caribbean. Thus, the literature produced by the wider region of the circumCaribbean can be considered to reflect this interplay and as an alternative history to chronicles bounded by nationalism. While the age of contact and contest, the Haitian Revolution, and the U.S.–Mexican War were early focal points for interchange, the mutual influences of cultures have been dynamic, ongoing, and intricately connected to immigration, diaspora, racial conflict and mixing, and the creation of new forms of cultural expression. Nowhere is this dynamic more evident than in the literature of the circumCaribbean, especially in the new forms it has taken over the past fifty years.
Exploding National Boundaries
Although North, South, and Central America, and the Caribbean islands they surround, were all explored and claimed by various European powers during the 16th and 17th centuries, their respective literary cultures have usually been considered as separate entities, following the path set out by historians, who tended to box cultures in national containers. As 21st-century scholarship has shown, however, from the contact period onward, there have been extensive links and overlaps among peoples of the hemisphere, and this has had a powerful effect on the literary traditions of the Americas and on the broader criollo cultures that have spread across artificial boundaries. The U.S. South, by this perspective, is more than the “other” of the rest of the United States; it is also the northen rim of the circumCaribbean—especially the coastal states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The ports of Savannah and Charleston have long had deep ties to tropic destinations. Today, Miami, usually dismissed as a glitzy tourist spot for Yankees, is actually the thriving commercial, cultural, and communications hub of the circumCaribbean, a role it assumed after Havana lost most of its central role in these areas after the Cuban Revolution.
Positing the U.S. South’s literature next to that of the wider circumCaribbean (of which it has always been part) parallels the ongoing project of globalizing the nation as a whole. As Amy Kaplan has cogently put it, “The new pluralistic model of diversity [in American Studies] runs the risk of being bound by the old paradigm of unity if it concentrates its gaze only narrowly on the internal lineaments of American culture and leaves national borders intact instead of interrogating their formation.”1 This formula for a global U.S. South makes clear that many writers of the circumCaribbean (which includes the U.S. South) have ignored imaginary lines drawn as national boundaries. As Michel de Certeau has observed, “What the map cuts up, the story cuts across.”2
Shifting Boundaries in the Contact Era
After all, the age of contact, exploration, and conquest had no strict sense of boundaries. Hazy early maps were constantly morphing as new lines of connection were traced by ships, armies, and then by exports to Europe from the New World. Even before Columbus and his peers launched their projects, however, lines of demarcation were shifting among the many Native peoples of the hemisphere; their existing treaties and/or conflicts were affected by the relations they had with invading Europeans. The French were notable for their willingness to cohabit with or even marry native women; the English, not so much. Slavery complicated matters, too. Although we think of the “peculiar institution” as most prominent in the United States, many more Africans were brought to South America and the Caribbean. Numerous slave owners had plantations in both the lower South and on the islands. Runaways formed maroon communities in swamps and mountain retreats, both in the coastal United States and the Caribbean, and many escaped slaves found refuge among Native peoples, who often accepted them as life partners as well.
The field of Diaspora Studies has provided an expanded lens for considering the network of slavery that knew no national boundary. A foundational critical volume, Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic (1993), posits our modern world as a hybrid construct. His sweeping study aims to uncover the roots of modernism and double consciousness, and it plumbs many of the works, including texts by Frederick Douglass, Martin Delany, Claude McKay, James Weldon Johnson, and Richard Wright. As Gilroy indicates, the myriad connections between the U.S. South and the Caribbean during the 16th and 17th centuries are best traced in journals, ship’s logs, trade ledgers, and public documents, but even then travelers, explorers, and missionaries were writing down their experiences. Eventually, Native Americans and enslaved Africans would learn to read and write, and their testimonies joined a chorus of New World voices. Especially notable in the 18th century were travelers and naturalists. Prime among the latter were Alexander von Humboldt and the Bartrams—John and his son William. Their accounts of their explorations and their collections of native plants riveted readers in Germany and England, respectively, and beyond.
Cross-Cultural Accounts of 19th-Century Travelers, Combatants, and Novelists
One of the first Southerners to travel extensively in South America was the South Carolinian Joel R. Poinsett. He lived in Chile from 1810 to 1815, visited Mexico, and was U.S. minister to Mexico from 1824 to 1830. His Notes on Mexico (1824) offers an invaluable insight into U.S.–Mexican relations at that time. It includes a description of the revolution that occurred during his residence. Soon after, accounts from travelers to and from Mexico, as in the Mexican Lorenzo de Zavala’s 1830 narrative of his exile in the United States, offered compelling and revealing views of Jacksonian American; his work, published originally in Paris, was a dramatic prelude to Alexis de Toqueville’s more famous Democracy in America, which came out the following year. Zavala’s detailed analysis of the newly formed Republic of Texas provided a valuable lens for reading the subsequent U.S.–Mexican War.
That seminal event brought a vastly heightened sense of the “South of the South” to the coastal citizens of the United States, as thousands of them participated in the war. Hundreds of novels were written about the conflict, mostly by northerners who never saw Mexico. However, fiction works and journals were composed by actual combatants from the U.S. South, including Colonel William C. Falkner’s novel The Spanish Heroine, and the memoirs of Raphael Semmes, a naval commander from Mobile, and Arthur Manigault, a young lieutenant from South Carolina. Many of the more educated military men took advantage of the extended occupation of Mexico to tour its ruins, cities, and natural wonders, employing the three-volume History of Mexico that had been published in 1843 by Henry H. Prescott. As Jaime Rodríguez has shown, many Mexican novels were written about the war as well, and some of them suggest that the conflict was instrumental—as were U.S. narratives about the war—in shaping national identity, as the need to defend the homeland from yanqui invaders crystallized the concept of homeland itself.
On the other side, soldiers and sailors from the United States often embarked from the port of New Orleans, which was just as strange, foreign, and tropical to troops from the upper South or the north as Mexico would be. The thousands of Southerners, however, who were natives of the lower South, were surprised by similarities in flora and fauna and the climate. Louisianans appreciated the similarly spicy food and the fact that Mexicans, like them, enjoyed cockfighting. Catholics of the coastal South felt at home in the magnificent Mexican cathedrals, while Protestant troops saw menace, and sometimes desecrated sanctuaries. Some of this fear of the Roman church found its way into Southern literature; the prolific Augusta Jane Evans penned an early work, Inez: A Tale of the Alamo (1855), that was fervidly anti-Catholic. As Vincent Perez has noted, however, there were many correspondences between the vast hacienda system and Southern plantations, and the peonage of Mexican peasants was not too different from that of African slavery.3
The conquest of Mexico whetted the U.S. appetite for more acquisitions and led to more and more filibuster expeditions to circumCaribbean lands. The notorious William Walker and his band of adventurers actually conquered Nicaragua; however, Walker’s reign as President was abbreviated by a counter-revolution and his execution. Narciso Lopez, a Venezuelan by birth who was raised and then exiled from Cuba, led filibuster fleets in unsuccessful attempts to conquer the island before Spanish troops garroted him. A prominent South Carolinian, Lucy Holcombe, was engaged to one of Lopez’s officers, who also lost his life on the island. She penned a novel, The Free Flag of Cuba (1854), which ennobled the filibusters, crying that the proper name for them was “patriot.” After her lover’s death, she married Francis Wilkinson Pickens, who became the Confederate governor of South Carolina. Before the Civil War, Mrs. Pickens and many other southerners cast a covetous eye on Cuba (as had Jefferson before them), thinking that not only would the liberation of the island from Spain enable a stronger reinforcement of slavery but also annexation to the United States would create a new Congressional delegation that could forestall emancipation at home.
A few years after Mrs. Pickens’s novel appeared, Martin Delany, a free man of color from Pittsburgh wrote Blake: Or the Huts of America (1861), which, like her novel, consisted of a first half set in the slave states of the United States and a second part that took place in Cuba. Like her, he was writing a novel of liberation, but one centered on the eponymous hero’s attempt to raise an international slave rebellion as a prelude to establishing a black colony in Central America. Delany would subsequently travel to Africa, write about his trip, and envision a colony there, but he ultimately served in the Union effort during the Civil War and spent most of the rest of his life in South Carolina, deciding that the South had the potential to be a true homeland for the African diaspora.
Both Pickens and Delany were aware of other narratives that had been written about and by the filibusters, American soldiers of fortune who were inevitably drawn into the discourse on slavery as they planned and executed their military expeditions to the Caribbean and Central America. One of the most important of these stories was told—in rather self-serving fashion—by William Walker, whose memoirs offer a compelling portrait of the kind of monomania that inspired the more notorious filibusters. “No history is so hard to write as that of our own times … But if the memoir writer be fair and discreet, he may contribute materials for future use, and his very errors may instruct after ages” (v.).4 When Walker penned these words for the preface to his 1860 memoir, The War in Nicaragua, he was seeking to authenticate the narrative that would follow. His intent to enter history on his own terms would be echoed later in the South and the Caribbean by a range of competing voices.
Walker was born in Nashville in 1824 and grew up in a household that eschewed slavery, employing free blacks. He received an outstanding education; he was awarded a medical degree in 1843. Like Delany, he practiced medicine for a time, but he migrated to New Orleans, where he took up the law before becoming a journalist (again, like Delany), coediting the Crescent. Eventually, as Delany did, he became interested in “liberation” and colonization. He also was capable, as Delany was, of changing his mind on issues. Although he criticized the Lopez expeditions while at the Crescent, after a stay in California, he became interested in filibustering himself, and he set his sights on Nicaragua.
Walker’s exploits in Central America were preceded by efforts to further colonize what was left of Mexico’s sovereign space. In 1853, he and his followers invaded Lower California, where he set himself up as President, declared the annexation of Sonora, and then attempted to physically conquer that territory. Eventually, these attempts failed, and Walker was tried and acquitted in San Francisco of violating the Neutrality Laws. Hardly fazed by these events, he next set his ambitions on Nicaragua, and eventually conquered the country and installed himself as President. His reign proved brief, however; surrounding nations drove him out.
Unfortunately for him, Walker’s later efforts to regain what he had lost led to his execution by a Honduran firing squad in 1860. But his return to the United States after his failed Presidency was triumphant. Huge crowds greeted his addresses in New York City, and a musical, Nicaragua, or General Walker’s Victories played to appreciative audiences in 1856.5 While his efforts may not have attracted as much financial backing as he would have liked, his ascendency to the Presidency became a beacon to those Americans who saw the future of Empire lying “south of the South.”
Neither Mrs. Pickens or Delany had ever visited Cuba, although their lively imaginations and their reading facilitated their tropical creations. A writer, however, who certainly knew both Havana and the outlying plantations was Cuba’s Cerilo Villeverde. His novel, Cecelia Valdés (1882; a shorter version appeared in 1839) centers on an incestuous interracial love affair but also presents a powerful indictment of slavery. The gripping third section, set on a remote and barbarously run plantation, matches anything written by Southern writers in its ferocity. The novel has influenced many subsequent Cuban and Cuban American writers who treat this period, and it is still regarded as the Cuban national novel, a fine example of what Doris Sommer terms “foundational fictions.”
Creoles of Color and Plaçage
Key figures in this novel were Creoles of Color, who also figure prominently in the literature generated by New Orleans. One of the most striking examples of literature by that group appeared in 1845, when seventeen male writers from that community contributed eighty-two poems to a volume entitled Les Cenelles: choix de poésies indigènes. The title refers to berries of the hawthorn bush and was likely chosen by the overall editor, Armand Lanusse. Many of the poems are laments for lost loves, women who all too often were chosen as mistresses by white patrons through the complicated racial system of plaçage; its most salient manifestation were the quadroon balls held in the French Quarter, where light-complexioned beauties, accompanied by their mothers, were introduced to white suitors. If a relationship developed, a contract was drawn, leading to a second family, often one with mixed-race progeny for the patron, who usually had a white wife and children. Plaçage resembled other rituals and arrangements, especially in the French but also the Spanish Caribbean.
The interaction of the coastal South with the rest of the circumCaribbean was heightened and complicated by the presence of many Spanish and French newspapers, particularly in New Orleans, which became a refuge for many revolutionaries over the course of both the 19th and 20th centuries; Tampa, too, sheltered exiles, and later, so did Miami. Kirsten Silva Gruesz has pointed to the key role New Orleans’s Spanish language La Patria played in the first half of the 19th century. As the fourth largest U.S. city and the nation’s second busiest port, its location made it the natural connection not only between both the nation and those further South but also between the East and the rapidly developing West. As Gruesz notes, figures such as Mexico’s Benito Juarez and Cuba’s Cerilo Villeverde found refuge there. La Patria was only one of more than twenty Spanish language newspapers published in the Crescent City prior to the Civil War. The paper’s editors strongly opposed the U.S. invasion of Mexico and thus aligned themselves with many U.S. figures, particularly abolitionists, who understood the South’s plan to make new states into slave holding bastions, states that could provide increased support through Congressional representation. Beyond coverage of the war, however, journals like La Patria reported on other events in the Hispanic parts of the hemisphere and helped weave a web of connection between the South and the further South.6
The French newspapers of New Orleans similarly kept U.S. readers abreast of happenings in Haiti, Martinique, and Guadeloupe, as well as French operations elsewhere in the hemisphere, particularly the Gallic colonization of Mexico under Maximilian. The most widely read L’Abeille was published from 1825 to 1925. The respected French-language novelist Alfred Mercier founded the literary journal Comptes-rendus de l’Athénée in 1876 to preserve the Francophone literary heritage of his native state.
The Hemispheric Legacy of the Haitian Revolution
The revolts and invasions envisioned by Delany and Pickens had a very real analogue; the early 19th-century South was horrified by the traumatic events of the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804). As many refugees (bringing many of their slaves) relocated to Louisiana, tales of the horrors of San Dominique quickly circulated. White writers, however, took care not to deal with the details, for fear of inspiring uprisings in the states. Still, the events in Haiti found their way into Southern letters. Louisiana had almost a century of sustained contact, trade, and cultural commerce with its sister colony in the Caribbean, and Louisiana literature soon reflected the legacy of the Haitians exiled there, especially the Creole-speaking Haitian slaves, whose rituals, dances, and songs in Congo Square were only the most visible signs of an Africanizing effect on the city. African Americans paid tribute to the revolt throughout the 19th century. William Wells Brown’s St. Domingo: Its Revolutions Its Patriots of 1855 was intended as a warning to slave holders and extended the heroic legend of Toussaint L’Ouverture that had been solidified by Baron Vastey’s 1816 biography. In the wider South, the slave revolts led by Gabriel Prosser (1800), Denmark Vesey (1822), and most significantly, Nat Turner (1831) were seen as the result of the Haitian contagion.
The most remarkable early narrative inspired by Haiti was Victor Séjour’s “The Mulatto” (1837). The author, a New Orleans free man of color, set his tale on the island, describing the tragic story of the title figure’s grief when his white father causes the death of the son’s wife, resulting in parricide, an event metaphoric of the revolution itself.
The Haitian conflagration was also written about by Frederick Douglass, James Weldon Johnson, and Arna Bontemps, among others in the African American canon. The latter did research in the Caribbean for his 1939 treatment of the revolution, Drums at Dusk. White Southern writers who dramatized the revolution and/or voodoo in their work include Sherwood Bonner, Charles Gayarré, Grace King, and most memorably, George Washington Cable, whose masterful novel The Grandissimes (1880), set in 1803 and after, depicts a New Orleans aquiver with fears of slave revolts. The magnificent African prince, Bras-Coupé, and the conjure woman he loves, Palmyre, have definite roots in Cable’s research on Haiti. His chief source was M. L. E. Moreau de Saint-Méry’s Description topographique, physique, civile, politique, et historique de la partie francaise de l’isle Saint-Domingue. Bras-Coupé’s revolt and maroon life in the swamps had many parallels in the Caribbean. The white characters who flesh out the more conventional romantic plots of this Creole drama sometimes practice hoodoo themselves, and most of the fine short stories Cable created to form Old Creole Days feature pirates, exiles from the Caribbean, and myriad examples of the interplay between the Port of New Orleans and realms further South.
The Tropical Sublime in Late-19th-Century Writing
Cable was fascinated by links between the South and the Caribbean and shared this interest with a fellow New Orleans writer, Lafcadio Hearn. The latter wrote for New Orleans newspapers but also published many short studies of local customs, African American culture, and musical traditions. The two men often did research together in the black communities. Eventually, Hearn did research in the circumCaribbean; he wrote two novels set there (Chita  and Youma ) as well as a fascinating memoir, Two Years in the French West Indies (1890), a romantic ethnography detailing his life on Martinique. Hearn was once married to a mixed-race woman and was fascinated by the gradations of color in the islands. His fluent French and love for French literature facilitated his research in the islands. All of these Caribbean works were written through the lens of his ten years in New Orleans, a city he always associated with the exotic and the tropical.
Hearn’s contemporary, Constance Fenimore Woolson, the grandniece of James Fenimore Cooper, grew up in the Midwest but spent six winters in St. Augustine with her invalid mother. Her three greatest novels (East Angels ; Jupiter Lights ; Horace Chase ) and a stunning collection of short stories, Rodman the Keeper (1880), while set in the tropical South, make constant reference to the Caribbean, the South’s African heritage, and draw heavily on the dark waters, steamy and stormy weather, and dense tropical foliage of the region. Many of her narratives involve a northerner who learns to appreciate the South while sympathizing with the devastation that the Civil War had brought to the region.7
Woolson was also a gifted travel writer, and she published pieces in national journals based on her travels across the South. One of her most impressive pieces, “The Oklawaha,” is a fictionalized account of her journey up the winding, mysterious, and dangerous Florida river, a voyage that was also taken and written about by other Southern writers such as Hearn, the poet Sidney Lanier, the humorist Thomas Bangs Thorpe, and the transplanted northerner, Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose Palmetto Leaves limned her life as an orange planter on the St. John’s River.
Many Southern writers contributed to two popular anthologies, Edward King’s The Great South (1872), and Picturesque America (1872–1874). Both collections sought to bring a new sense of mystery to a region that had recently been invaded and ravaged. By focusing on the natural wonders of seemingly impenetrable jungles, dark waterways, and menacing wildlife, while simultaneously rhapsodizing on the beauties of the foliage, the sunsets, the quaint backwoods inhabitants, and the charming hamlets, the editors brought forward the enticing appeal of both danger and pleasure. As Jennifer Greeson has observed, these editors were capitalizing on the craze for narratives of African exploration, such as Stanley’s search for Livingston, and there was a calculated attempt to “Africanize the South.”8
Modernism and the CircumCaribbean
The Southern Renaissance’s modernist writers are noted for having a supposedly insular view of the region, but many of them in fact were profoundly connected to the circumCaribbean. One of the twelve Southerners who contributed to the agrarian/Fugitive manifesto I’ll Take My Stand, Andrew Lytle, was fascinated by the Spanish history of the hemisphere; his 1941 novel, At the Moon’s End, dramatized Hernando De Soto’s doomed explorations of the tropical South, dominated by his encounters—and conflicts—with Native Americans. The band of explorers throughout is linked to Spain’s mission in the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America. William Faulkner was fascinated by the Caribbean narratives of his great-grandfather, and he set several of his short stories in the Caribbean. His most famous novel, Absalom, Absalom! contains the back story of the central figure Thomas Sutpen, who went to the West Indies to seek his fortune after an impoverished Appalachian boyhood. There he marries a wealthy Creole and sires a son, only to find his wife has black blood. His attempt to start over in Mississippi with a new family generates an extended narrative, one that includes the appearance of his rejected son, now an urbane and educated New Orleans dandy who seeks the hand of Sutpen’s daughter.
Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, his first masterpiece, received an important review from Evelyn Scott, at that point a much more noted writer. As a teenager, she eloped to Brazil with an older, married man, and bore his child there. Her tortuous existence in various tropical outposts there is the subject of her barely fictionalized work, Escapade (1923).
Another female Southern writer who set memorable works South of the South was Katherine Anne Porter. Many of her greatest short stories take place in Mexico, a country she loved, partly because of the similarities she saw with her upbringing in Texas. As she put it, “My America has been a borderland of strange tongues and commingled races, and if they are not American, I am fearfully mistaken.”9 Porter wrote nonfiction studies of primitivism, Native cultures, and fiestas, but she also drew from Mexican elements for some of her greatest short stories, including “María Concepción,” an early and almost ecstatic presentation of the culture, and the later, darker stories, such as “Hacienda” and “Flowering Judas.” The strange relationship between the ascetic ex-patriate Laura and the rebel leader Braggioni epitomizes Porter’s conception of both the links and the barriers between the two cultures, although the lynchpin of the tale is the suicide of a prisoner, Eugenio. Laura’s final recognition that she has betrayed her Catholicism and her commitment to the Mexican Revolution, is symbolized by her dream of eating the leaves of the Judas tree as Eugenio accuses her of cannibalism and murder.
Porter’s contemporary, the great Southern playwright Tennessee Williams, always saw the Caribbean as both an exotic release and an extension of his equally tropical and permissive New Orleans, whose Carnival has both real and metaphoric equivalents across the Gulf. His Streetcar Named Desire (1947) resonates with the call of the Mexican flower vendor, “Flores por los muertos.” One of his most engrossing dramas, Night of the Iguana (1962) is set on Mexico’s coast, and depicts the tropics as a site for spiritual and moral regeneration.
Twentieth-Century African American Writers and the CircumCaribbean
Florida’s Zora Neale Hurston had more firsthand experience with the Caribbean than virtually any other African American writer. A trained anthropologist who had already noted the myriad African and Caribbean elements of New Orleans in her study, Mules and Men (1935), she embarked on a long tour through the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Haiti to gather circumCaribbean folklore, which resulted in Tell My Horse (1938). Her research vitally influenced two of her greatest works, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), which was actually written in Haiti, and Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939), a retelling of the biblical saga in black dialect, where the title figure is presented as one of the great hoodoo practitioners in history. Both these works are rich in circumCaribbean lore, and the former was likely influenced by a folk-driven masterwork by Claude McKay, Banana Bottom (1933), which lyrically focuses on his native Jamaica. The novel’s heroine, Bita Plant, returns to her native island after years of education in England and is expected to settle down as a minister’s wife. She gets back in touch with her native roots, however, renews her loving relationship with her father, and takes us on a magical survey of folk culture. There are many parallels between this classic of Caribbean literature and Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Nevertheless, McKay is much better known for his Home to Harlem (1928). That novel’s key character, Jake, is Southern; he engages in dialogue throughout with his buddy Ray, who hails from Haiti. McKay had spent time in Alabama and was keenly interested in the links between the South and the Caribbean. He would explore diasporan connections further in his Marseilles novel Banjo (1929), which has been reconsidered lately as a classic of what Paul Gilroy calls “the black Atlantic.” Jake and Ray reappear there, in conflicts and conversations with African-descended figures from around the globe. Notably, all of the Harlem Renaissance writers were affected by not only McKay but also by other Caribbean artists and leaders who were active in New York at that time, including Marcus Garvey (Jamaica), George Padmore (Trinidad), Arthur Schomburg (Puerto Rico, whose many works included a treatment of the Cuban poet Placido) and especially, Eric Waldron (Guyana), whose magnetic short story collection, Tropic Death (1926) became a central text for Harlem writers, and a lynchpin for their developing sense of a diasporan culture. Many of the southern-born artists of the Renaissance were struck by the similarities of the folk cultures of the South and the Caribbean. The librettist and short story writer John Frederick Matheus and the composer Clarence Cameron White based their opera Ouanga (1932) on the life of Jean Jacques Dessalines, the ruler of Haiti at the end of the revolution. In 1928, they went to the island to do research, as Hurston would do shortly afterward. Langston Hughes visited both Cuba and Haiti, and in 1932, he and the Louisiana-born writer Arna Bontemps published a children’s novel, Popo and Fifina, about urban Haitian children who experience a new life on a farm. Hurston, of course, had introduced the Midwesterner’s Hughes to southern culture; after he visited the Caribbean as well, he saw many connections between that realm and the U.S. South. Along with Mercer Cook, he translated Jacques Roumain’s moving story about a Haitian drought, titled in English Masters of the Dew (1941). Roumain’s mode of presentation of peasant culture has many affinities not only with McKay’s and Hurston’s works but also those of some of the white writers of the South, particularly those who wrote about African-descended communities. Of special note in this regard is the Charleston aristocrat Dubose Heyward, who recognized his native city’s profoundly Caribbean qualities, which he employed in his path-breaking novel Porgy (1925) and then in Mamba’s Daughters (1929). Later, Heyward explored the U.S. Virgin Islands and penned a tale set among the natives there as they adjusted to the new custom of marriage, Star Spangled Virgin (1939). Heyward also wrote the screenplay for the film (1933) of Eugene O’Neill’s Caribbean play, The Emperor Jones, adding a new back story for Jones set in the U.S. South.
Hurston’s sometime nemesis, Richard Wright, never set any of his work in the circumCaribbean, but he spent a great deal of time there and lived in Argentina for more than a year. At one point, he contemplated writing a biography of L’Ouverture and wanted to star as that figure in a film. He had many friends and contacts from the region, especially after he left the United States for his final years in Paris, which was awash with exiles from the Caribbean.
These connections are readily apparent in his unpublished novel Island of Hallucinations, a sequel to his last published work, The Long Dream (1958). Notably, Wright’s influence on Barbados’s George Lamming, whose autobiographical novel In the Castle of My Skin (1953) has many affinities with the Mississippian’s magisterial life story, Black Boy (1945). Indeed, Wright wrote a moving foreword to the first edition of Lamming’s work.
Perhaps it is no accident that so many successful African American writers have been attracted to the circumCaribbean; after all, many of them were from the South and were aware of the myriad influences of the more southern realms on their region. Furthermore, because of slavery’s importance in the islands and in many countries of Central and South America, a majority of citizens have African ancestry, and in many cases, practice (sometimes covertly) African religions such as Santería, Candomble, Obeah, and Vodoun. We sometimes forget, too, that the South has always had black immigrants from the Bahamas, Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica, and elsewhere throughout its history. Conversely, many readers in the non–U.S. circumCaribbean have been inspired and educated by reading classic works of African American writers, particularly the revolutionary writings of figures such as Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X., and after 2008, Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States.
One of Wright’s contemporaries was the most prolific and popular African American writer of the South, Frank Yerby, whose novels, translated into many languages, have sold more than 60 million copies. A native of Augusta, Georgia, who taught at both Southern University in Baton Rouge and Florida A&M in Tallahassee, Yerby’s works have been mostly forgotten, but his oeuvre was rich in texts that dealt with various areas of the circumCaribbean. His sojourn in Louisiana provided a wealth of materials for his early novels, particularly his first (and still his most famous), The Foxes of Harrow (1946), and its sequel The Vixens (1947). Throughout his career he would return to antebellum stories, but he also wrote historical novels about other cultures and eras. One of the best, which was made into a film, was The Golden Hawk (1948), a circumCaribbean pirate tale that moves from Jamaica, to Haiti, to Cartagena. Its hero has both Spanish and French ancestry and speaks fluent English, enabling him to move effortlessly in all the cultures of the basin. Yerby later wrote an exciting tale of revolution in a fictional Latin American country, The Old Gods Laugh (1964). This tale involves guerilla fighters, espionage, priests, and as always, transcultural romance. Yerby’s ability to limn Latin cultures was heightened after his voluntary exile in Spain, where he lived from 1952 until his death in 1991; he perfected his Spanish and mastered Spain’s national and colonial history. His many other transnational novels aid in adjusting our literary sights to a global perspective, as we simultaneously knock down artificial barriers between the so-called “popular” and “classical.”
The CircumCaribbean in Postmodern/Contemporary Literature
Perhaps the most impressive influence of the Caribbean on contemporary Southern writers has been evident in the magnificent trilogy Madison Smartt Bell has written from his musings on the Haitian Revolution: All Souls’ Rising (1995); Master of the Crossroads (2000); and The Stone That the Builder Refused (2004). Although we see historical figures here—most prominently, a richly detailed L’Ouverture—Bell follows the method of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, combining actual participants with his fictional cast. Importantly, Bell strives throughout to see the revolution “from below,” that is, from the perspective of the enslaved. The central figure of the African-born Riau heads a cast of insurgents whose courage and heroism—despite their sometimes-horrific deeds—electrify and inspire.
Bell’s trilogy stemmed from his absorbed reading, not only of key histories of the revolution in particular and the Caribbean in general, but of the many circumCaribbean writers who have also written on the conflict. As Bell’s novels alternate between scenes of Toussaint in his final destination, prison in the French Juras, and the events in Haiti, he echoes the structure of Martinique’s Édouard Glissant, whose play Monsieur Toussaint (1961) was an inspiration. Bell’s second and third novels bear a debt to the Cuban Alejo Carpentier’s masterful novel The Kingdom of This World, whose central figure Ti-Noel strongly influenced Bell’s developing portrait of Riau. Bell subsequently wrote a well-received biography of Toussaint. Other great circumCaribbean writers also wrote about the Haitian insurrection, and many of them influenced Bell’s work. These include the pathbreaking history, The Black Jacobins by Trinidad’s C. L. R. James, which reads like a novel, and his passionate play, Toussaint L’Ouverture (1936); St. Lucia’s Derek Walcott’s trilogy of plays Henri Christophe (1948); Drums and Colours (1958); and The Haitian Earth (1984); and Martinique’s Aimé Césaire (especially his play La tragedie du roi Christophe (1970). Sadly, few of these figures seemed to have known of Haiti’s first novel, Stella (1859), by Émeric Bergeaud, which used the Revolution to establish a founding myth for the country. Its reissue promises to round out our understanding of the differing approaches to this eminent event in and around the basin.
Another epic trilogy that makes impressive use of circumCaribbean tropes and settings comes from the late Peter Matthiessen, not usually considered a Southern writer; however, his Killing Mr. Watson (1990); Lost Man’s River (1997); and Bone by Bone (1999) (which he combined and rewrote into one volume, Shadow Country ) employs wild, frontier West Florida for its grim and gripping epic narrative, and it draws on the Caribbean elements he had already explored in his short but overpowering marine drama, Far Tortuga (1995). All of these works came in the wake of two key early works, one nonfiction: The Cloud Forest: A Chronicle of the South American Wilderness (1961), which led to his classic novel, At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1965), a harrowing story of missionaries and soldiers of fortune who encounter Native people in the far reaches of the Amazon. Bell and Matthiessen added their work to a fertile period of literary and critical production in the circumCaribbean.
A Jamaican writer who has linked her native culture with that of the coastal United States is Erna Brodber, whose Louisiana (1994) focuses on the ethnographic research of a West Indies woman in the eponymous state, concentrating on her interviews with hoodoo women, one of whom continues to communicate with her after she dies. Dealing with Carnival, the traditions of Congo Square, and myriad issues of the black diaspora, the novel also channels the anthropologist career of Zora Neale Hurston.
Puerto Rico is usually thought of as the generator of “Nuyorican” literature, as most immigrants from that U.S. territory wound up in New York City. However, one of the South’s most gifted writers, the late Judith Ortiz Cofer, has set most of her work on her native island, as in her magnificent novel, The Line of the Sun (1989). However, after decades teaching at the University of Georgia, she began to set her narratives in her adopted state, and she has been inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.
A nonfiction book by a Caribbean writer that has had wide currency is by Édouard Glissant, whose Faulkner, Mississippi (1999) retraces his pilgrimage to Faulkner’s home, and the meditations this journey inspired. Glissant’s critique of Faulkner’s work places it in intimate contact with circumCaribbean literary traditions, and it reveals new angles of approach to the master’s oeuvre. Glissant’s critical studies, Caribbean Discourse (1989) and Poetics of Relation (1997) have played a crucial role in the ongoing mapping of circumCaribbean space and culture.10 Glissant for some years was a professsor Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and there is no question that his residence in the South had a profound effect on his presentations of creolité, circumCaribbean identity, diaspora, and the concept of transnationalism.
Recent Critical Analyses of CircumCaribbean Literature
Calypso Magnolia: The Crosscurrents of Caribbean and Southern Literature examines the work of more than twenty writers and many circumCaribbean critics, to remake the map of the cultures of the Americas, thereby revealing the deep, persistent connections between the ideas and works produced by the writers of the U.S. South and the Caribbean.11 This work builds upon the foundation erected by literary scholars such as Deborah Cohn, George Handley, Stephanie Russ, and Valérie Loichot (all based in Spanish or French studies), and historians such as Rebecca Scott and Matthew Guterl, whose study of slave owners across the circumCaribbean constitutes a crucial rupture of traditional national “boxes.”
Cohn’s History and Memory in the Two Souths: Recent Southern and Spanish American Fiction (1999) demonstrates the strong influence of U.S. Southern literature on Latin American writers of the hemisphere, comparing Faulkner and Mario Vargas Llosa, Ralph Ellison and Isabel Allende, Katherine Anne Porter and Juan Rulfo, while also commenting on connections among other U.S. writers and figures such as Alejo Carpentier, Nicolás Guillén, and Gabriel García Márquez. Similarly, Handley, in Postslavery Literature in the Americas: Family Portraits in Black and White (2000), draws together Cirilo Villeverde and George Washington Cable; Martín Morúa Delgado, Charles W. Chesnutt, and Frances E. W. Harper; Alejo Carpentier, and William Faulkner; and Jean Rhys, Rosario Ferré, and Toni Morrison. Russ, in The Plantation in the Postslavery Imagination begins by tracing a connection between Vanderbilt’s Agrarians and their contemporaries in Cuba and goes on to comparisons of works by Teresa de la Parra and Ellen Glasgow; Dulce Maria Loynaz and Eudora Welty; Antonio Benítez-Rojo and William Faulkner; Aída Cartagena Portalatín and Gayl Jones; and Toni Morrison and Mayra Santos-Febres. The Francophone scholar Valérie Loichot operates in a parallel fashion, linking Faulkner and Morrison with Glissant and Saint-John Perse. While other studies link U.S. writers in general with those further South, these four critics mainly concentrate on the “two Souths,” to use Cohn’s phrase.
Mention must be made here of the key work of a scholar of the black diaspora, Keith Cartwright, whose Sacral Grooves, Limbo Gateways (2013) concentrates on African American writers of the South, such as James Weldon Johnson and Zora Neale Hurston, but he employs myriad links with the Caribbean that shaped such figures’ work. He pays special tribute to New Orleans literary and musical history, and throughout he displays a keen awareness of the many African religions that affected Afro-Caribbean cultural production—especially poetry.
Historians preceded literary scholars in these kinds of studies. Matthew Pratt Guterl’s American Mediterranean: Southern Slaveholders in the Age of Emancipation (2008) provides a welcome presentation of the U.S. South’s slaveholders’ myriad connections with their counterparts “South of the South,” while demonstrating the myriad ways the lines that cross the basin echo patterns from the Mediterranean. Rebecca Scott’s Degrees of Freedom: Louisiana and Cuba after Slavery (2005) shows how cross-cultural histories of the circumCaribbean can both startle and inform.
Recovering Texts and Redefining Literary Boundaries
Concurrently, lost texts have been discovered, helping to piece together a variant version of both actual and fictional histories. A fascinating text, Jovita Gonzalez and Eve Raleigh’s Caballero (written in the 1930s but not published until 1996) portrays a proud Mexican family that faces radical adjustments after the border with the United States leaps South, placing them under the control of what they see as an alien invader. Their personal conflicts—and romances—with the invading U.S. military create a complex and fascinating narrative and cast new light on the narratives of the U.S.–Mexico war. New concepts of the role of Mexico in our hemispheric imagination have been sparked by both contemporary writers and critics. As Robert Brinkmeyer has demonstrated, the West—including Texas and Mexico—has played an increasing role in Southern letters. Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry are only two of the many writers who have set borderland tales there.
As a consideration of Mexico reminds us, much of the United States has a Spanish heritage. Latinos have been a part of Southern culture from the very beginning; the oldest continually inhabited town in North America is St. Augustine, which was settled by the Spanish in 1565. Both Florida and Louisiana were under the Spanish flag until shortly before the Louisiana Purchase, and Cubans always saw Miami and Havana as sister cities until Fidel Castro’s revolution. Latinos constitute growing segments of Southern populations, particularly in Florida but also Georgia and North Carolina.
This lacuna is somewhat understandable, as much of the prose and poetry by this group was published in Spanish, often in newspapers printed in coastal Southern cities. There has also been a tendency to consider Florida as a kind of outlier in Southern culture, partly because of its tropical difference from most of the rest of the region, its former remoteness and frontier quality (which prevailed well into the 20th century), and in the 20th century because of the vast influx of Northerners, particularly in South Florida. Since the1990s, however, an impressive number of Latino Floridians have written in English, with stellar results. Particularly notable are Southerners of Cuban descent, many of whom migrated to the states during and after the Cuban Revolution: Cristina García, Virgil Suarez, Roberto Fernández, Ana Menéndez, Gustavo Pérez-Firmat, Nilo Cruz, and Ivonne Llamazares. García quickly achieved an international reputation after the publication of her highly praised first novel, Dreaming in Cuban (1992), which was set in the northeastern United States and Cuba. Her second novel The Agüero Sisters (1997) alternates between Miami and Cuba and draws on García’s vexed relationship with Florida. While the main focus is the title sisters, their family’s back story, as seen through their father Ignacio’s diary, acquaints the reader with Cuba’s history before the revolution, Ignacio’s mysterious murder of his wife Blanca, and the couple’s collection of birds in the Zapata Swamp. Reina, the younger of the two sisters, is an Amazonian electrician in Cuba, and has a daughter, Dulce, by a revolutionary hero. Constantia, who runs a cosmetic empire in Miami, also has a daughter, Isabel, an artist who lives in Hawaii. The interactions between the sisters and their daughters takes the narrative into many venues and situations and makes us see Miami through Reina’s eyes when she immigrates. The story features a search for familial roots and truths, while also pondering the complexities of personal identity and the effort to clarify complexities of history. García’s extensive use of the Zapata Swamp was informed by her discovery of a little-known naturalist who was also a gifted writer. Thomas Barbour’s A Naturalist in Cuba (1945) gives an invaluable account of a great natural region that today is sadly diminished. Interestingly, Barbour had previously published That Vanishing Eden: A Naturalist’s Florida (1944), indicating that his translation of the deep South’s tropical regions influenced his subsequent absorption of similar landscapes in the Caribbean. This interplay of naturalist and fictionalist is at work in the work of Matthiessen, who as we have seen, was a master of both modes and always understood that they enriched each other.12
Virgil Suarez, a poet, essayist, anthologist, and novelist, was born in Cuba but has lived in Florida for many years, teaching at Florida State University. His most interesting work, in terms of Florida/Cuban relationships, is Going Under (1996) a Southern bildungsroman centered on the complex life of Xavier Cuevas, a Miami businessman whose extended family includes an Anglo wife, a widowed father, and friends who before leaving Cuba had to serve in the misbegotten Cuban Crusade in Angola. Benito the yardman was part of the Mariel boatlift of undesirables (in Castro’s estimation) to Florida. When Xavier suffers a breakdown, his friend Carlos takes him to a santera for cure; she asks him, “Are you Cuban or American?” bringing the key issue of the novel into sharp focus. At the conclusion, Xavier has started swimming to the island—either a defiant and temporary gesture, or a desperate suicide. Throughout the tale, the push and pull of two cultures takes us into a third space that goes beyond concepts of national identity.
Suarez’s colleague at Florida State, Roberto Fernández, writes quite differently. Both of his novels, Raining Backwards (1988) and Holy Radishes! (1995), employ surreal humor to investigate similar issues of confused identities and cultures. Fernández’s characters often try to create simulacra of their former surroundings, a metaphor for the Cuban Miami community, where Calle Ocho in the Cuban district has been a magnet for the island’s exiles for decades.
Despite its postmodern pastiche and comic episodes, Holy Radishes! contains grim and grotesque passages, particularly in flashbacks to the heroine Nellie Pardo’s life in Cuba, where her wealthy family lost everything, she was raped, and her father was imprisoned and starved to death. Her work in a Florida radish plant alongside a pretend Southern Belle affords the author the opportunity to draw comic lines of connections between the “Lost Cause of the South” and the “Next Year in Cuba” syndrome. Both women suffer in different ways from the actions of their spouses, and their flight at the end mirrors the conclusion of the female buddy movie, Thelma and Louise. Raining Backward creates similar comedy by presenting grotesque encounters of Cuban characters with Southern mores and rituals. Fernández employs much “Spanglish” and often inserts Spanish phrases without translation, thereby urging readers to strain to a new sense of understanding.
Gustavo Pérez Firmat was born in Cuba to an affluent family, whose business brought them quite often to Louisiana. After the revolution, they built a new life in Miami, whose Little Havana has functioned as a recurring kind of Mecca for this author. His personal life has generated grist for his important nonfiction books and essays, memoirs, and a novel. Pérez Firmat has had a distinguished academic career in the Spanish departments of Duke University, and currently, Columbia University. He has quarreled with members of his family who see merit in things Castro has done; he divorced his Cuban wife, married an Anglo woman, and had to adjust to his children’s strongly U.S. identities. An essay, “My Life as Redneck” (1992) and his novel, Anything But Love (2000) document his own acceptance and often, enjoyment, of Southern mores and rituals. His most important meditation on a bifurcated identity, Life on the Hyphen: The Cuban American Way (1994), has spoken to citizens from all backgrounds who have had to balance two cultural heritages.
Nilo Cruz, who won the Pulitzer Prize for drama with Anna in the Tropics (2002), was born in Cuba but grew up and was educated in Miami. His compelling play takes place in a cigar factory in Tampa during the 1920s and features a love triangle involving a lector (a figure who reads from the classics to ease the tedium of the workers), whose elegance attracts the owner’s daughter, with disastrous results. The story includes an early reference to a Southern belle from Atlanta who eloped with a lector from Guanaboacoa, a story that is compared, like the central one, with the love triangle of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, which the lector reads to the workers. One of the themes of the play is the looming elimination of the lectors as workers are replaced by machines.
The desperate and dangerous passage across the waters from Cuba to Florida has been memorably depicted by Ivonne Lamazares in The Sugar Island (2000). She was brought to the United States at the age of thirteen and for many years was a professor in Miami. The first half of the tale unfolds in Cuba. The narrator’s mother was a youthful and fiery supporter of Fidel who joined the revolutionaries in the mountains. Returning home pregnant, she subsequently descends into a life of poverty and despair. The second part of the novel details her desperate flight to Florida across the choppy waters with her daughter. This piercing novel has affinities with the Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat’s tragic and famous short story, “Children of the Sea” (1994), which documents refugee drownings, one of many correspondences between the Cuban and Haitian diasporas, which have contributed to the growing diversity of Florida and the greater South.
Some might object that this group of writers has little to do with Southern culture, and that they should be the province of Latino studies. However, despite the lack of grits, columned mansions, or other tired stereotypes of the “Old South” in their works, these narratives are firmly set in the South, and reflect its current realities. Latinos of every nationality—especially Mexicans—have migrated to virtually every area of the region in the past decades, and there are more Mexican and Caribbean restaurants around than traditional meat-and-threes. Haitians, Africans, Vietnamese, and many other groups have added to the South’s diversity too, and are increasingly part of the stories of the 21st century. This is true even in the works of white writers, like Cynthia Shearer, whose The Celestial Jukebox (2005) is prima facie evidence of this ethnic mix.
Another prominent ethnic enclave in Miami is “Little Haiti,” a magnet for immigrants from that island. Haiti’s greatest contemporary writer, Edwidge Danticat, relocated to Miami and set narratives there that also featured her Haitian background.
Positioning all these texts alongside each other facilitates a new awareness of a need to acknowledge and extend the ties that have always bound the South and the Caribbean. The literature from this transnational region has generated a dynamic process, one that has rendered profound insights into notions of personal, regional, national, and global identities.
Benítez Rojo, Antonio. The Repeating Island: The Caribbean and Postmodern Performance. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996.Find this resource:
Brickhouse, Anna. Transamerican Literary Relations and the Nineteenth-Century Public Sphere. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2004.Find this resource:
Cartwright, Keith. Sacral Grooves, Limbo Gateways: Travels in Deep Southern Time, Circum-Caribbean space, Afro-Creole Authority. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2013.Find this resource:
Cohn, Deborah. History and Memory in the Two Souths. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 1999.Find this resource:
DuBois, Laurent. Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution. Cambridge, MA.: Belknap, 2005.Find this resource:
Gikandi, Simon. Writing in Limbo: Modernism and Caribbean Literature. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992.Find this resource:
Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993.Find this resource:
Glissant, Édouard. Caribbean Discourse: Selected Essays. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1989.Find this resource:
Glissant, Édouard. Faulkner, Mississippi. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999.Find this resource:
Goudie, Sean. Creole America: The West Indies and the Formation of Literature and Culture in the New Republic. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, c2006.Find this resource:
Greeson, Jennifer. Our South: Geographic Fantasy and the Rise of National Literature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010.Find this resource:
Gruesz, Kirsten Silva. Ambassadors of Culture: The Transamerican Origins of Latino Writing. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, c2002.Find this resource:
Handley, George. Postslavery Literature in the Americas: Family Portraits in Black and White. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000.Find this resource:
Karem, Jeff. The Purloined Islands: Caribbean-U.S. Crosscurrents in Literature and Culture, 1880–1959. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010.Find this resource:
Nwankwo, Ifeoma Kiddoe. Black Cosmopolitanism: Racial Consciousness and Transnational Identity in the Nineteenth-Century Americas. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, c2005.Find this resource:
Ring, Natalie. The Problem South: Region, Empire, and the New Liberal State, 1880–1930. Athens: University of Georgia Press, c2012.Find this resource:
Russ, Elizabeth Christine. The Plantation in the Postslavery Imagination. Oxford, and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.Find this resource:
Stepan, Nancy Leys. Picturing Tropical Nature. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001.Find this resource:
(1.) Amy Kaplan, “‘Left Alone with America’: the Absence of Empire in the Study of American Culture” in Cultures of United States Imperialism, eds. Amy Kaplan and Donald E. Pease (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993), 15.
(2.) Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 129.
(3.) Vincent Perez, Remembering the Hacienda: History and Memory in the Mexican American Southwest (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2006).
(4.) William Walker, The war in Nicaragua (1860, reprint, Detroit, MI: Blaine Ethridge, 1971).
(5.) Robert E. May, Manifest Destiny’s underworld: Filibustering in Antebellum America (Chapel Hill: University of North Caroline Press, 1992), 71.
(6.) Kirsten Silva Gruesz, “Delta Desterrados: Antebellum New Orleans and New World Print Culture,” in Look Away! The U. S. South in New World Studies, eds. Jon Smith and Deborah Cohn (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), 60–63.
(7.) After the War concluded, thousands of Confederates relocated to Cuba, Mexico, and Brazil. Cuba attracted Generals John C. Breckenridge, Robert A. Toombs, Birkett Fry, John B. Magruder, and Jubal A. Early. For more on Os Confederados, the group that settled in Brazil, see John Lowe, “Reconstruction Revisited: Plantation School Writers, Postcolonial Theory, and Confederates in Brazil,” Mississippi Quarterly 57.1 (2003–4): 5–26.
(8.) Jennifer Greeson, Our South: Geographic Fantasy and the Rise of National Literature (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010), 244.
(9.) Katherine Anne Porter, The Collected Essays and Occasional Writings of Katherine Anne Porter (New York: 1970), 33.
(10.) Édouard Glissant, Caribbean Discourse: Selected Essays, trans. J. Michael Dash (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1989), and Poetics of Relation, trans. Betsy Wing (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997).
(11.) John Lowe, Calypso Magnolia: The Crosscurrents of Caribbean and Southern Literature (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016).
(12.) Although he is not noted for work on the Caribbean, the Kentucky writer Wendell Berry is an outstanding example of this ability to write extensively in both areas. Berry, even more than Matthiessen, has been taken up as a shining example by the burgeoning ecological movement.