Progress Report 2: Visualizing Caribbean Literary Encounters

In this week of working on the “Writers, Readers, and Scenes: Visualizing Caribbean Literary Encounters” project, I continued my search in locating all literature written by Caribbean authors between the period of 1981 to 1990. Unlike last week, I tackled this task with a set strategy and goal in mind.

Using my key takeaways from the previous week, I decided to locate the works of authors Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, a Trinidadian author, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, and Reinaldo Arenas, both Cuban authors. Given that it has been two weeks now since I have decided to dive into the work of VS Naipaul, it goes without saying that he wrote quite a lot during this time period. It is for this reason that I found it absolutely necessary to restrict my WorldCat search to the years 1981 to 1990, however, the process was still slow-going. It was in my search for the two aforementioned Cuban authors that I made some critical observations and found myself asking some key questions. 

Firstly, I found that the publications of the work of these authors are not standardized. I saw books with original publication dates as early as the 1950s still being re-published by different publishers as recently as 2019, with translations in languages like German, Japanese, and Dutch, while for others only one or two publications could be found with hardly any translations in different languages. Thus, I began thinking about the qualification processes involved for republishing books. What criteria must a book meet in order for publishers to deem them worthy of further editions? Does this criteria depend on the author’s accessibility or prominence? 

Secondly, I was reminded of a question that I once posed to Dr. Esprit when she initially introduced the project. What qualifies an author as Caribbean? At the time, we gauged a Caribbean author to be someone born, but not necessarily raised, in a Caribbean country. Since then I have used this definition to drive my search parameters,  but this week I have started running across several instances that I do not believe this definition can account for. Are books with multiple authors across several geographical locations, with a minority, perhaps one or two Caribbean names on the lineup still considered Caribbean literature? Given that we are still in the early phases of this project, with project definitions and goals being fluid, I eventually determined that clipping books of this sort into my folder would be a good idea until further direction and definitions were established.

Overall, I believe that this week was quite fruitful, offering a lot of food for thought and discussion with the project team. Furthermore, by employing keywords, I have witnessed a significant improvement in my research methods and techniques, allowing me to find results that are relevant for my purposes. Given that we have already begun discussing the next steps in completing the project in class through Alix Gil’s discussion on minimal computing and our WAX installation, I believe it is necessary that I double my search efforts in the coming weeks in order to produce a more comprehensive list of literary works that more accurately represents the Caribbean literary sphere between 1981 and 1990.

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