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What would be a postcolonial perspective on the work of Derek Walcott?

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chieeditor318 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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A postcolonial approach tries to understand the literature and culture of former colonized countries in light of their complex histories. In particular, the interactions and relationships between the colonial and indigenous cultures are an important focus of postcolonial theory.

The great Saint Lucian poet Derek Walcott is typical of many postcolonial writers in that he feels immersed in both a colonial tradition (specifically, English language and literature) and in the indigenous culture of his native land. As a result, he is critical but not completely dismissive of the English tradition and asserts a place within it. At the same time, he recognizes his debts to indigenous Caribbean culture.

For instance, in the poem "White Magic," he uses a clever pun on the term "white" to explore how the presentation of different cultures in schools teaches us to value some cultures more than others. He identifies several different points of comparison between folktales and mythology of Caribbean and...

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First, Walcott rejects the European, competitive conception of history as a continuing system. In his work, Omeros, set in Saint Lucia, he shows that there is hope of a new order where there is more freedom of expression.

Walcot presents a model of Caribbeanness that values the fertilizing nature of cultural and racial multiplicity (Douillet, 2010).

Second, he portrays the Caribbean people as strong because they have emerged successfully from the era of slavery. In Omeros, he demonstrates the resilience of the Caribbean voice through the use of words like 'I am blest."

Third, in Odyssey he shows that that there is no chronology of events, in reference to colonialism and slavery.


Douillet, C. M. (2010). The Quest for Caribbean Identities: Postcolonial Conflicts and Cross-Cultural Fertilization in Derek Walcott’s Poetry. AmeriQuests, 7(1).