Redeeming the Word: Religious Experience as Liberation in Erna Brodber's Fiction

Curdella Forbes


The sociological literature of the Caribbean indicates that religion, both Christian and syncretic, has played a positive role in the liberation movements of the region, and that it continues to play a role, albeit in less overtly public ways, in the Caribbean's continuing construction of itself. The literary criticism and creative literature of the Anglophone Caribbean have, by and large, downplayed this positive aspect of religion. The focus has been predominantly on its historically negative aspects as a tool of oppression, deprivation and misdirected heroism, and, simultaneously and alternatively, on its presence as a diffuse strand in a larger matrix of cultural manifestation. In the latter type of representation, religion has been subsumed under folk culture, which in its turn has been subsumed under nationalism, the rubric which directed Anglophone Caribbean writing and criticism up to the 1980's. The paper examines the fictions of Erna Brodber, which seem to represent a shift away from this perspective. Brodber not only re-creates religious experience as the organizing dynamic of liberation, but also recasts religious experience within a language and etymology radically removed from those which characterize the rhetoric of nationalist liberation. Her epistemology in this project is equally removed from the frames of diaspora, globality and feminism within which her work is usually analyzed. I argue that in the final analysis Brodber makes a shift away from the historicist and humanist tradition that governs current literary and cultural discourse, and I seek to identify the bases and implications of this radical shift.

Full Text: