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Literary 'Versions': Writing, Sound, and Historiographic Method in Contemporary Caribbean Fiction.

Harris, Treviene A. (2023) Literary 'Versions': Writing, Sound, and Historiographic Method in Contemporary Caribbean Fiction. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines the ways writers of Caribbean fiction deploy representations of sound to forward critiques of official history and dominant accounts of historical events. Elaborating on Evelyn O’Callaghan’s concept of “version,” I show how novels by David Chariandy, Marlon James, and Marcia Douglas draw on sound and on Caribbean sonic and oral cultures to amplify the limits of the ‘official’ historical record and to write rival versions of historical events. Such interventions constitute parts of Caribbean philosophical and literary traditions that are focused on critiques of writing, history, and the politics of representation. In addition, I argue that sonic literary interventions activate listening—an outgrowth of Caribbean oral culture—as a mode of critical interrogation by the reader. O’Callaghan borrows the term “version” from reggae music culture to describe strategies West Indian women writers use to articulate the particularity of their gendered and raced embodied experiences as distinct from those of West Indian men. I expand “version” to represent the aspiration towards writing in ways that destabilize the linearity of dominant representations of history. Furthermore, literary texts as versions incorporate traces of prior sonic texts to disrupt formal conventions. Following O’Callaghan’s musical framework, I define three kinds of versions to demonstrate how elements of sound transform fiction writing. Chapter One, which focuses on retellings of the myth of the soucouyant, explores version as covers, wherein the story of the US occupation of Chaguaramas is retold in poems, novel, and calypso to center black Trinidadian women’s experience. Chapter Two explores version as sampling, wherein James’s novel A Brief History of Seven Killings draws on prior texts, including film, to examine how the layered history of 1970s Jamaica defies closure and invites further scrutiny and expansion. Chapter Three, on Douglas’s The Marvellous Equations of the Dread, explores version as dub remix, wherein fragmentation and discontinuity are features of a historiographic method used to embed one story of contemporary Jamaica alongside its longer colonial imperialist history. In writing sound, fiction authors derive versions of the Caribbean’s elusive and silenced histories to privilege the chaotic polyvocality of memory and embodied lived experiences.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Harris, Treviene A.trh42@pitt.edutrh420009-0005-4827-3336
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairPuri,
Committee MemberMajumdar,
Committee MemberJudy,
Committee MemberHeller,
Committee MemberOwens,
Date: 6 September 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 8 May 2023
Approval Date: 6 September 2023
Submission Date: 4 August 2023
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 197
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: sound, sonic, writing, literature, Caribbean, West Indian, Caribbean literature, Caribbean, music, calypso, reggae, dub, remix, sample, cover, form, orality, oral culture, history, historiography, version,
Date Deposited: 06 Sep 2023 16:10
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2023 16:10


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