Wednesday, September 25, 2013


-a British novelist, short story writer, historian and mythographer.  she focuses on books relating to feminism and myths. professor at university of essex.  
-her family settled St. Kitt’s island (sir thomas warner) was her grandfather. She named her Prospero character Kit Everard as in St. Kitts
-her family played a large role in British imperialism and its  almost as if she was trying to atone for family’s wrong doings
-book written in 1992
-tobacco was originally the main crop but then it switched to sugar cane until 2005
-St. Kitt’s 65 square miles
-Indigo’s alternate title is Mapping The Waters because Warner is attempting to map the murky waters of history on imperialism.  
-There are several volcanoes on St. Kitt and the highest volcano is Mount Liamuiga which is what Warner calls the island in Indigo, and also what the natives originally called the island
-First adaptation of the tempest that we’ve read that focuses on the gender roles in The Tempest.  
-St. Kitts is an island in the West Indies; short for St. Christopher Island
-theme of mapping

-unlike shakespeare, Warner references the bible, specifically the story of Cain and also Ishmael.  She references “The Good Book.”  comparing the natives to Cain.
-Kit - Prospero (hes a voyager and a colonizer, he talks about how great he’s going to be for the island and he takes advantage of the native’s knowledge of the island to get what he wants and then forgets about it.  he keeps ariel captive.)
-Caliban - Natives (interested in nature whereas Kit is just interested in monetary gains from the crops)  the tree, ariel/sycorax
-nature is very relevant, the natives are all connected to nature
-Dule is renamed caliban (more references to the canibal/caliban). (“this island is mine”) Kit takes control of him.  Caliban was the leader until Kit takes him and subdues him which reflects the tempest.  as caliban/dule’s punishment they slit the back of his hamstrings so that hes handicapped as he is in the tempest.
-“Indigo” refers to Sycorax’s trade (a churning method of making indigo dye)
-Warner also takes what were mere references in The Tempest to Sycorax and others and makes them fully fledged characters.  
-shape shifting nature of ariel was representative of women having to take on different roles.
ariel in indigo does whatever the settlers need.
-same parallel of how the island originally belonged to the natives
-in letter from King of England to Kit he talks about how the people weren’t christian and therefore didn’t count  “that we are further informed that these said Islands are possesed and inhabited only by the aforementioned savages and heathen people, and are not, nor at the time of the discovery were, in the possession  or under the government of any Christian Prince, state, or potentate.”
-Shakespeare says Sycorax was bent like a hoop “this blue eyed hag”
-ariel is female, also mute.  when she tries to talks to Kit he shoots her down and leave.  in tempest when ariel tries to talk to prospero he also shoots him down.
-there were many allusions along the way to the history of st. kitts island → subtext

-She took a lot of details directly from history in addition to Shakespeares The Tempest
kalingo genocide took place several years after her setting for Indigo, it is likely that she was referencing this.
-“river of blood” blood of the carobs ran down bloody river
-the genocide did in fact take place in late january which is also the same in Indigo
-most of the history about the kolingo genocide was written by the british.  in indigo, she uses more graphic/realistic terms.  “the massacres was shameful, the losses piteous.  the blood of the wounded trickled from the bank, spilling like one of the showers that freshened the earth each day and flowed downstream towards the sea, which was not so far that its rich scarlet could diffuse before it met the waves.”

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Aimé Césaire's A Tempest

Born in 1913, in Basse-Pointe, Martinique, a French isle-colony (located in the eastern caribbean northwest of Barbados and due north from the border between Venezuela and Guyana), Aimé Césaire drew from his experiences with fascism, racism, and colonialism to become a prolific advocate of racial equality.  Both a well educated poet and politician, serving as a communist who pushed for the recognition of Martinique as a “department” rather than a “colony” (a plan which backfired with regard to increasing the island’s independence)  and  as the mayor of Fort-de-France for twenty-five years, he was the founder of the Martinican Progressive Party.  He formed the party after leaving the communist party; he was upset that class struggle was held in higher regard than racial equality.     
Aimé Césaire advocated for the adoption of non-western cultures for the purpose of maintaining negritude amidst a period in Africa of blooming independent states, free from colonization.  Drawing from this as well as his experience of Fascism under the Vichy regime during WWII, his knowledge of the Haitian revolution, and Marxism, he wrote A Tempest in 1969 for a festival in Tunisia.  It could be important to note that part of Césaire’s support of non-western traditions was rooted in his knowledge of the failure of the Haitians to reach their delusional goal of becoming equal to France, a topic which was the subject of his 1961 book The French Revolution and the Problem of Colonialism, and his 1963 play The Tragedy of King Christophe.  Admiring the revolt of the Haitian slaves but regretting their crippling ambition, Césaire constructed his next two plays to convey the importance of aggressive revolution and colonial rejection, the latter being A Tempest.

  • Cesaire’s earlier works, including “Cahier d’un retour au pays natal” (Notebook of a Return to the Native Land) and Et les chiens se taisaient (And the Dogs were Silent)
    • Prominently featured Caribbean settings, showing that this was a subject about which Césaire was passionate
    • Also featured themes of decolonization
  • “The Happy Antilles: In honor of all those who have dreamed of the Islands with a poet’s heart”
    • “A vegetable paradise / Long do you enchant me with your captivating play”
    • Poetry popular in France written by/for the colonizers
    • Césaire wanted to expose this type of poetry as perpetuating misinformation regarding the state of colonialism
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X
    • An important piece of the Black Power movement
  • The Odyssey
    • “Seeing the young lady, more beautiful than any wood-nymph, I might have been Ulysses on Nausicaa’s isle”
    • Ulysses/Odysseus happens upon Nausicaa in her secluded island home, and eventually gains approval from her parents

  • Eshu is another manifestation of colonial influence
    • From an African religion, Yorúbá, native to Nigeria, that spread to the Americas during the colonial age, in which he is the god of trickery
    • The author’s inclusion of Eshu is a contortion of the original text’s wedding scene
    • Caliban idolizes “Shango,” the warrior god of the same religion in Act II, scene one and in Act III, scene four, as a strong figure
  • Caliban = Malcolm X
    • Malcolm X, a staunch advocate of Black rights and a member of the Nation of Islam, mirrors Caliban in his aggressive approach to attaining freedom
  • Ariel  = Martin Luther King, Jr.
    • Ariel favors a more nonviolent approach to gaining freedom, sharing a similar ideology as Martin Luther King, Jr.
    • Ariel is Mulatto, an ethnic group in Martinique (and elsewhere) who were part black but who, typically, dissociated themselves from other blacks by advancing in free white society.  Not all Mulattos were free.  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Tracing the Baudelaire intertext in Aime Cesaire's "A Tempest"

You know the part in Cesaire's "A Tempest" where Antonio is making fun of Gonzalo's fantasies about the island they've landed on (which, three pages later, Gonzalo himself will call a "filthy hole"!), and he quotes a couple of lines of verse?
Men whose bodies are wiry and strong
and women whose eyes are open and frank
"I see you know your literature," Gonzalo responds.  But I didn't recognize it. On this reading I finally got curious enough to Google the quotation.  Nothing.  Turns out it's not a common (or particularly good) translation.  So I went to the French original and found
Des hommes dont le corps est mince et vigoureux,
Et des femmes dont l'oeil par sa franchise étonne.
It's a mid-19th-century poem by Charles Baudelaire, called "Exotic Perfume," in which the speaker reposes his head on his mistress' breasts and falls into a reverie, dreaming of sailing the open seas and coming ashore on a verdant and fragrant exotic island. 

What a perfect intertext.  Can you see why this particular late-Romantic French poem is such a great foil for Aime Cesaire's deconstruction of the French civilizing mission?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Wild Man Shakespeare Presentation

Shakespeare Presentation
The Tempest
Caliban: The Wild Man
Presentation Outline/Hand Out

·         During the time The Tempest was written and performed, imperialism was occurring in the more advanced countries such as Great Britain, Spain and Portugal
o   British settling of Jamestown, Portuguese, Dutch and Spanish settlements of South America, the general settlements in the Caribbean and Africa
To sum it up, people were familiar with the general progression of settling. Paralleled in The Tempest with Prospero’s landing on the island, it would start with a mutual symbiotic relationship between the two groups of people. At first, the more advanced society introduces the natives to the technology, the natives show the newcomers the tricks of the land, the two groups live in harmony until the advanced group subdues the natives with their advanced technology for an unjust or ambiguous reason.
o   Tales of cannibalism were rampant, drawing from real accounts, myths and legends, or the idea that the lesser, native society has this uncultured lifestyle. Shakespeare would have read many of them while writing this work.
·         Resurgence of English efforts to subdue and govern Ireland, the wild Irishman occurred during late 16th century, early 17th century. The tales of the wild Irish may have been a contributing factor in creating Caliban’s character.
·         Natives were thought of as savage, uncultured, and barbaric.
·         Traveler tales, stories and accounts of voyagers, were abundant in English society as everyone was fascinated with the discoveries of the New World, as well as the native people and the different cultures that explorers encountered.

·         The parallelism of how Prospero assumed control of the island to the current events of the time. He showed up vulnerable to Caliban’s island, who in return for his knowledge and company showed Prospero how to acquire food and water and almost opened a doorway to his own culture. Prospero accepted Caliban’s company until Prospero believes that Caliban is trying to rape his daughter. After that point Prospero seizes control of any freedom Caliban had ever had, enslaved him to do his grunt work, stripped him of his former culture and pretty much broke him down to nothing all because of Prospero’s advanced “technology” in knowledge and magic.
o   Essentially, Caliban’s role in The Tempest may have been, in part, intended to symbolize European imperialism
·         Some claim Trinculo and Stephano originally thought that Caliban might have been an Indian or a devil, due to their initial remarks in 2.2
o   “Were I in England now… where they will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian.” 2.2.27
o   “Do you put tricks upon’s with savages and men of Ind?” 2.2.56
·         The name of Caliban is thought to be an anagram for the world cannibal, or derived from the African city Caliba, Shakespeare uses the idea that cannibals were primarily known through stories and rumors in order to antagonize Caliban as the counter force, when in reality he may be just a victim.
·         Shakespeare may have uses the reference cannibalism as synonymous with savageness and uncivilized, not necessarily as identifying Caliban as literally a cannibal.
·         The speech that Gonzolo makes ashore the island could be interpreted as mocking his utopia as well as drawing attention to the concepts in and underlying the speech through the speech itself, the other’s reactions and the placement of the speech in the scene. The way he described this workless, community utopia touches upon multiple things. First, it can be seen as a form of levity to cheer the king up by saying that Gonzolo himself could not control an island by bringing up the unconventional ideal of his control. Secondly, it touches up on the idea that these Europeans always believe that when they land upon an unknown, seemingly uninhabited Island, they know what is best for the island because they have a bigger stick. Finally, it mocks the ideal that this perfect form of government where no suffering or risks and that everyone is equal. Shakespeare’s placement of the speech in this scene may be a commentary on the meaning of the speech, literally mocking Montaigne’s ideas, or it could be commentating that Montaigne’s favorable view towards native, cannibalistic cultures holds many unpopular views that many find unfavorable.
o   Gonzolo’s speech is almost verbatim to the Montaigne’s essay “Of the Cannibals,” where he describes almost idealistically the indigenous inhabitants of Brazil. Montaigne criticizes the English as ignoring the natural appeal of their culture, a culture he sees as uncorrupted and untouched by greed. He claims that while the inhabitants are cannibals, their culture is one that has distinct advantages to English society. The obvious connection that Shakespeare draws is Caliban representing the cannibalistic natives, although perhaps not cannibalistic in a traditional way, but more representative of savage and unsophisticated.
·         It is alluded to that Caliban has this secret culture that was destroyed when Prospero arrives, due to the fact that he has limited nomenclature for specific fruits that symbolize the native’s rudimentary but complete form of a culture. For example when Trinculo and Stephano first meet Caliban, Caliban mentions finding scamels in the rocks, a word which has no known definition.
o   Some believe the word may be a typo, but others think that it is the last remaining trace of Caliban’s life and culture before Prospero arrived on the island. This could be indicative of the practice by European colonists, voluntary or not, of destroying the native culture, overriding it with their own customs and ideas.  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Tempest

I just wanted to let you know that for those of you who have netflix, there's a great version of The Tempest available on instant play.  It's from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and its staring Christopher Plummer.  I actually saw a preview performance and it's really amazing and I'd definitely recommend watching at least part of it after you read.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Shakespeare on the Beach!

Hey Everyone!

It's a little early to announce it, but in my vocabulary "early" is on time, "on time" is late, and "late" is never, so here we go!

Here at BU, NewRep/Classic Repertory Company will be putting on a performance of "A Midsummer's Night Dream" on Saturday, September 21, 2013. The time slated for the play is from 8:00 to 10:00 pm on the BU Beach, according to the BU Student Activities Calendar, so if you're in the area then and want to make plans that weekend, be sure to check it out!

Here's the link:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The routes of [Sonnet] 66

The Oxquarry Books web site (among many, many others) carries the text of Sonnet 66, helpfully glossed and given to us in several variants including the 1609 Quarto Version.

Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,
As to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplaced,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And strength by limping sway disabled
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill,
And simple truth miscalled simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
   Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,
   Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.

You've read Manfred Pfister's article from 2004 on Continental European repurposings/interpretations of this sonnet.  Here's a 2010  article where he updates his research, extending it to English literature.  What do you think of his new findings?

Here is a link to the Shostakovich piece, using Pasternak's translation and also sometimes performed in English.  

Video of the Wolf Biermann piece is here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Romeo and Juliet; Healing Rwanda

The Tutsis and the Hutus.  These two tribes fought in a politically charged battle against one another for power in the east African state of Rwanda, power the Tutsi minority once held, but lost the Hutus, power they were looking to regain.  However, their military insurgency prompted Hutu retribution, resulting in the brutal genocide in the year 1994 in the east African state of Rwanda.  This genocide brought about the deaths of hundreds of thousands, perhaps even one million, Rwandans, and the destruction of the lives of the survivors. 
The Montagues and the Capulets.  As told by William Shakespeare in his play Romeo & Juliet, these two families partake in an ongoing feud against one another, a feud of indeterminate origin but certain gravity, in the Italian city of Verona.  The rivalry reveals the worst of many of the plays characters, and, even for Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, whose love for each other internally transcends the familial loyalty they harbor, external conditions lead to the demise of each lover.  Senseless hate destroyed star-crossed love. 
In Kigali, Rwanda, 20 years after the atrocity, that may not define but will forever resonate with the generations of Rwandans, has ended, a play that is almost 520 years old is acting as a vehicle to display the tragedy and the loss of the past to a reconciled Rwanda.  After being asked by Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Andrew Garrod went to Rwanda for six weeks to direct a poignant adaption of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.  After casting 34 young people, not necessarily experienced actors, Garrod developed an emotionally charged piece directing an ensemble of Hutus and Tutsis.  Their collaboration in a piece that ultimately recognizes the importance of peace and the loss of conflict, the cast has helped to heal the state of Rwanda. 
             The play was performed 10 times, for free, in various locations in Rwanda.  The script was also translated into mostly Kinyarwanda, with around 20% remaining in Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter and only another 20% in English.  The group is excited about a work of such literary merit adopting a native language of Rwanda. (here is a trailer for a documentary about the creative process of the production) (background on the Rwandan Genocide) (more about the adaption)