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Evan Mwangi

Caribbean poet, historian, dramatist, and cultural theorist, was born Lawson Edward Brathwaite to Hilton Brathwaite, a warehouse clerk, and Beryl Gill on 11 May 1930 in Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados. He was later given the name “Kamau,” a common name in central Kenya, by the writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s mother, when Brathwaite visited Kenya as a guest of the University of Nairobi in the 1970s. For his early education, Braithwaite attended the Harrison College, an elite school in Barbados, beginning in 1945. He started writing poetry at an early age, publishing some of it in the school magazine, The Harrisonian, which he cofounded, and later in the audacious magazine Bim, edited by Frank Collymore, an eminent man of letters in the British Caribbean. Some of this early poetry was later collected in Brathwaite’s Other Exiles (1975).

In 1949 Brathwaite won the Barbados Scholarship to attend ...

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Paul Breslin

Martinican poet, playwright, essayist, and political leader, was born on 26 June 1913, in Basse Pointe, Martinique. His parents, Fernand and Eléonore Césaire, were of modest means but devoted to their six children’s education. In 1924, Césaire entered the Lycée Schoelcher in Martinique’s capital, Fort-de-France. In 1931 he went to France to study at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, then, in 1935, at l’École Normale Supérieure. In Paris, Césaire developed friendships with other young black intellectuals and writers, most notably the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor and Léon Damas (1912–1978), a French Guianese who had been his schoolmate at the Lycée Schoelcher. In 1937, he met and married a fellow Martinican student and poet, Suzanne Roussi (1915–1966). The marriage produced six children, one of whom, Ina Césaire (1942– ), became a prominent writer as well.

Césaire and his circle sought a definition of black identity They were influenced by the ...

Article

Richard Watts

Born in Basse-Pointe, Martinique, the second of six children in a family of relatively modest means, Aimé Césaire grew up with a strong appreciation for French culture. While most young Martinicans heard their bedtime stories in Creole, Césaire’s father would read his son French poems by Victor Hugo, which may explain in part Césaire’s bias against the Creole language. The family moved to Fort-de-France when Césaire was twelve years old. There Aimé enrolled at the Lycée Schoelcher and met Léon-Gontran Damas, a student from French Guiana. Césaire’s exceptional work there led to a scholarship to finish his secondary studies in Paris, France, at the prestigious Lycée Louis-le-Grand. In Paris he met the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor, a man whose literary and political itinerary would mirror Césaire’s.

Césaire enrolled at the école Normale Supérieure in 1931 and began participating in the vibrant black student life of 1930s Paris Through ...

Article

Jennifer Burton

and important figure in the 1960s black arts movement. Eugene Redmond was born 1 December 1937 in St. Louis, Missouri. Orphaned at age nine, he was raised by his grandmother and “neighborhood fathers,” made up of members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and friends of his older brother. During high school he worked on the newspaper and yearbook, performed in school and church plays, and composed for neighborhood singing groups.

From 1958 to 1961Redmond served as a U.S. Marine in the Far East, acquiring a speaking knowledge of Japanese. He was an associate editor of the East St. Louis Beacon from 1961 to 1962. In 1963 Redmond co-founded a weekly paper in East St. Louis, the Monitor, working at different times as a contributing editor, executive editor, and editorial page editor.

At Southern Illinois University he was the first African American student editor of the university ...

Article

Gerry Cambridge

In Crocodile Dandy, an essay about the Australian poet Les Murray, which amusingly begins with “the barbarians” approaching “the capital” with their rambunctious and superbly learned bards in tow, Derek Walcott provides a witty shorthand for the surprise of Empire at finding its former colonies' poets more au fait with its civilization's great art than it is itself. Walcott, as a son of the former colony of the British Empire, St. Lucia, is a perfect example—a poet from the margins, greatly learned in English literature, who has been widely feted both in Britain and America.

Article

David Barry Gaspar

poet, playwright, and literary and cultural critic, was born Derek Alton Walcott in the town of Castries on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, then a British colony. It had experienced very slow Anglicization since its acquisition from the French after the Napoleonic wars. His parents, Warwick Walcott and Alix (maiden name unknown), were Methodists in a mostly Roman Catholic society. His mother was a schoolteacher and seamstress and, for many years, headmistress of the Methodist Infant School. She enjoyed acting and reciting. Walcott's father, an avid watercolorist and civil servant, died in 1931, leaving his wife to raise young Derek, his twin brother (Roderick Alton), and his sister (Pamela), who was two years older.Derek Walcott grew up in a house filled with books and other indications of the intellectual and artistic interests of his parents After completing elementary school under the ...

Article

Peter Hudson

Derek Alton Walcott, winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize for literature, is widely regarded as one of the most important writers to emerge from the English-speaking Caribbean. While other Caribbean writers have responded to what Patricia Ismond has called the West Indian “crisis of historylessness,” brought about by the devastating effects of slavery and colonialism, by searching for roots, Walcott celebrates the possibilities of the “newness” of the region. The figure of Robinson Crusoe recurs in his poetry and plays, exemplifying both the predicament of Caribbean isolation and the potential that isolation offers to West Indians for creating a vocabulary uniquely suited to the complexity and richness of their world.

For Walcott, the artistic legacy of classical Western civilization is integral to this creative process. At an early age, he “fell madly in love with English.” Born in Castries, Saint Lucia he became familiar with the Western canon through ...