(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Fossil and Psyche articulates Wilson Harris’ belief that “the potentiality for dialogue, for change, for the miracle of roots, for new community is real.” Using the metaphor of archery (psychic arrows and fossil targets), he situates his novels and the work of other writers within a realm of attempts to reach architectonic (mythic) realities. He argues against the opposition of the material to the spiritual and critiques the borders by means of which the real is held separate from the imaginary. Harris asserts the potential of the imaginary to illuminate the transcendent possibilities of history and identity. Such possibilities, if realized, would result in a culturally heterogeneous world community and in an alteration of world power hierarchies.

The “idolatry of absolutes” holds readers and writers hostage to the temporal, spatial, and cultural limitations of literature when in fact those limitations are illusory. Arrows of language and imagination can reach the fossil targets of architectonic, mythic, eternal, atemporal, renewing experience. Novels by authors such as Patrick White and Malcolm Lowry, Harris claims, are dream-expeditions signaling humanity toward “a third perhaps nameless revolutionary dimension of sensibility” that evades commonly held notions of material and spiritual reality. Such an evasion is the key to enriching and understanding the value of the multiplicity of identities. Accessing these wells of timeless connection will “deepen and heighten the role of imaginative literature to wrestle with categories and to visualize the birth of community as other than the animism of fate.”

Traditional oppositions lead to inadequate readings of imaginative literature and to misreadings of the processes that underlie imaginative composition. Literature, like every aspect of human experience, is lodged within a matrix of time and space. The literature Harris addresses in Fossil and Psyche attempts to transcend this matrix, to confound time and space, to mine the architectonic fossils of human community with present psychic projections of imagination.

Novels of expedition, then, revise history and reveal the hopeful, transformative energies of life locked away in even the most deadly and deadening acts of history. Writers who embrace such a process of revision renew the creative, psychic act of imagination. Such psychic projections of imagination join past to present and future and European to African and Native American.


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Drake, Sandra E. Wilson Harris and the Modern Tradition: A New Architecture of the World. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1986.

Gilkes, Michael. Wilson Harris and the Caribbean Novel. London: Longman, 1975.

Harris, Wilson. Tradition, the Writer and Society: Critical Essays. London: New Beacon, 1967.

Maes-Jelinek, Hena, ed. Wilson Harris: The Uncompromising Imagination. Aarhus, Denmark: Dangaroo, 1991.

Moore, Gerald. The Chosen Tongue. New York: Longman, 1969.