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Gendered Legacies of Romantic Nationalism in the Works of Michelle Cliff

Jocelyn Fenton Stitt


Abstract: This essay argues that Jamaican-American Michelle Cliffs writing should be understood within a new interpretive framework which sees post-independence Caribbean literature as inheriting gendered and raced legacies of Romantic nationalism. While Cliffs early work shows the appeal of Romantic nationalism as a means of establishing national authenticity, her later work demonstrates how these norms, when transmitted to postcolonial black nationalism, displace more complex notions of national identity that take into account racial, sexual, and cultural hybridity.

All nationalisms are gendered, all are invented, and all are dangerous ... Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather

Introduction
One of the central dilemmas of postcolonial subjects concerns the creation of national identities after the trauma of colonialism.1 This essay approaches the vexed subject of Anglophone Caribbean national identity through an analysis of the nationalist rhetoric contained within post-independence literature, one of the central vehicles deployed in the attempt to create

1. I use postcolonial in this essay as a temporal, political, and literary demarcation. Michelle Cliffs home, Jamaica, became independent from the United Kingdom in 1962. The political and literary attempts to conceive of a new nation and an authentic national culture in the wake of this decolonization, which Cliffs works participate in, are thus postcolonial. I also employ postcolonial in the manner now current in the academy, meaning works containing an anti-colonial sentiment, or the study of the culture of colonial rule. I use West Indian interchangeably with Caribbean, meaning in both instances the Anglophone Caribbean.
small axe 24 October 2007 p 5272 ISSN 0799-0537

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an authentic postcolonial identity. Contextualizing the work of Jamaican-American writer Michelle Cliff within this literary tradition demonstrates that many of the dominant forms of rhetoric used to establish authentic national subjects contain within them the gendered and raced legacies of Romantic nationalism. Michelle Cliffs body of work provides an interesting perspective on the postcolonial deployment of nationalist rhetoric, given her embrace of essentialist forms of black nationalism in her early work and subsequent rejection of these modes of nation building in her 1987 novel, No Telephone to Heaven. Cliffs work shows both the appeal of Romantic nationalism as a solution to the problem of postcolonial identity, as well as the problems this form of nationalism creates for resolving this fundamental question. Cliffs writing foregrounds themes central to post-independence Caribbean literature, including the struggle to establish a national identity separate from European influence, and the project of rewriting colonial history from the point of view of the colonized. In addition, Cliffs work explores her heritage as a mixed-race Jamaican woman who is also a lesbian. The fictionalization of these complicated identities has produced critically acclaimed novels and short stories: Cliffs work is read around the English-speaking world. Influential Caribbean poet and critic Kamau Brathwaite glossed this mental decolonization as trying to outline an alternative to the English romantic/Victorian cultural tradition which still operates among us.2 However, as one scholar argues, the problem of defining West Indianness, rather than being resolved through postcolonial writing, actually becomes the central paradigm of West Indian discourse and narrative.3 In the work that follows, I suggest that the problem of defining Caribbean identity through nationalist rhetoric fails because the form of nationalism embraced in the post-independence period has roots in a European ideology of authenticity that is divisive and unproductive within the multi-racial Caribbean context. If, as Timothy Brennan observes, In Europe and the United States, for the most part, the triumphant literary depiction of nationalism is Romantic, then we need to explore other manifestations of this ideology and what possibilities this specific form of nationalism creates.4 In other words, why do post-independence writers in the Anglophone Caribbean turn to Romantic nationalism? While this essay suggests that Cliff uses Romantic nationalism as one means of establishing authenticity for her female and mixed-race characters, (and potentially
2. Kamau Brathwaite, Roots (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993), 26. 3. Belinda Edmondson, Making Men: Gender, Literary Authority, and Womens Writing in Caribbean Narrative (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1999), 20. 4. Timothy Brennan, The National Longing for Form in Homi Bhabha (ed) Nation and Narration (London and New York: Routledge, 1990), 44.

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herself as a light-skinned Jamaican living in the United States) I want to touch briefly on some reasons for its broader appeal. The very qualities of Romantic national identity: the identification between national subject and his nations landscape, the valorization of the folk, and the importance of the mother figure to guarantee identity were all sources to be mined in the Caribbean context. In a colonized space, where one hundred years after Columbus landfall the majority of Arawak and Carib peoples had perished, the resulting mixture of enslaved Africans, Europeans, and immigrants from Asia had to look for sources of national pride and identification outside of a literary tradition, powerful military, ancient buildings, or a pre-colonial culture. While there are many instances of survivals of African languages and customs in the Caribbean, this fragmented cultural history exists in spite of the policies of slave owners who took great care to separate newly arrived slaves speaking the same languages and to punish with impunity those found practicing African religious rituals. Thus, intellectuals in the Caribbean could not, for example, point to an ancient literary tradition in Sanskrit as in India, or to autochthonous cultures, traditions, and languages as in Kenya or Ghana as points of nationalist pride. Instead, enthusiastically representing the formerly denigrated wildness of the tropical landscape, honoring previously enslaved Afro-Caribbean folk, and celebrating the Afro-Caribbean mother as central to the Caribbean family during slavery became unifying points. While landscape, folk and folk mother as are represented as culturally specific to the Caribbean, it is intriguing that they are also hallmarks of Romantic nationalism.5 Indeed, one of the central insights to be gained from reading Cliffs work lies in a realization that the specific modes of nationalist expression inherited from the Romantic period create a barrier to the integration of a feminist agenda into the otherwise emancipatory discourses of anti-imperialist movements.6 I will develop this idea more fully below, but as a starting point, I identify in Cliffs early writing echoes of black nationalist texts through her veneration of the Caribbean landscape and her mythologizing of the figures of the mother

5. Readers might compare my argument about the deployment of the ideologies of motherhood, landscape and the folk by men in the Caribbean to Barbara A. Moss account of womens empowerment through their status as mothers, custodians of the land and folk practices in Zimbabwe: Mai Chaza and the Politics of Motherhood in Colonial Zimbabwe in Catherine Higgs, Barbara A. Moss and Earline Rae Ferguson (eds) Stepping Forward: Black Women in Africa and the Americas (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2002), 143157. 6. By emphasizing the importance of Romantic ideology for Caribbean nationalism, my work marks out a different path from Belinda Edmondsons Making Men and Kathleen J. Renks Caribbean Shadows and Victorian Ghosts: Womens Writing and Decolonization (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999). While examining the influence of the nineteenth century on Caribbean writing, neither work understands Romanticism as central to the dilemmas of contemporary national identity. Victorian writers, by producing narratives of the emerging middle class, stand in marked contrast to Romantic poets and black nationalists of the mid-twentieth century who constructed authenticity through representations of the folk, folk mother, and landscape, what contemporary Caribbean writer George Lamming calls, the peoples speech, the organic music of the earth. The Pleasures of Exile (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992), 45.

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and grandmother as a sources of authenticity: At her most powerful the grandmother is the source of knowledge, magic, ancestors, healing, food. She assists in rites of passage, protects and teaches. She is the inheritor of African belief systems, African languages.7 How close this formulation seems, for all of its rhetoric of empowered Afrocentric motherhood, to the role ascribed to British women in the nineteenth century, as one historian notes: Motherhood was to be given new dignity; it was the duty and destiny of women to be the mothers of the race, but also their great reward.8 Although there are clear cultural and historical differences between the status of women in Victorian England, and women in postcolonial Jamaica, and indeed their relationship to motherhood which I discuss below, these depictions portray womens greatest contributions to the nation as coming through their role as mothers. This position reinscribes an essentialized view of national identity as coming through biological motherhood.9 Referencing the (black) mother in Caribbean postcolonial discourse as the point of origin displaces more complex notions of national identity, which take into account racial, sexual, and cultural hybridity. I explore in the final section of this essay how the norms of Romantic nationalism transmitted to postcolonial black nationalism will later become outmoded for Cliff as she struggles to write a multi-cultural New World nation. Ironically, the forms of nationalism embraced by many anti-colonial intellectuals contained legacies of the nineteenth century. Nationalism, as it is portrayed in Caribbean literature, often corresponds directly to the forms of nationalism developed and expressed in literature during the Romantic period, creating a paradoxical ideology: postcolonial nationalism was supposed to create new forms of identity as a form of anti-colonial resistance, while actually drawing directly from European modes of imaging the nation. The new kind of nationalism that arose in Europe during the Romantic period (17891834) often deployed artistic depictions of landscape and the folk to express the essence of the nation, thus using literature as a vehicle of national self expression.10 While it is true that most nationalisms make use of

7. Michelle Cliff, Calibans Daughter: The Tempest and the Teapot, Frontiers 12, no. 2 (1991): 3651, 47. 8. Anna Davin, Imperialism and Motherhood, History Workshop Journal 5 (1978): 13. 9. Angela Keane notes that discursive formulations of nation construct women as nationalized subjects solely through their family relationships: The affective, organic and often biological discourse that characterizes nationalism particularly Romantic nationalismhas particular repercussions for women, by restricting female subjectivity to maternal reproduction. Angela Keane, Women Writers and the English Nation in the 1790s: Romantic Belongings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 5. 10. Romanticist Marlon Ross states that two earlier notions of nationalism came together in the Romantic period to form a nationalism that is recognizable to us today. The concept of national development cross-breeds the notion of territorial acquisition, born during the Renaissance, with the notion of historical progress, born during the Enlightenment, and grafts both onto the notion of the folk as an organic entity with a natural relation to the nurturing place. Romancing the Nation-State: The Poetics of Romantic Nationalism in Jonathan Arac and Harriet Ritvo (eds) Macropolitics of Nineteenth-Century Literature: Nationalism, Exoticism, Imperialism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991), 56.

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references to origins or to essential characteristics of the people, Romantic nationalism as I use it here, refers to modes of nationalist discourse which rely on an organic link between the landscape, the qualities of the folk, and perhaps most importantlythe figure of the national mother.11 That postcolonial Caribbean formulations of nation have their roots in the Romantic period has not been widely commented on, nor related to the formations of the role of women in nationalist rhetoric. While recent work emphasizes the importance of the nineteenth century as a point of emergence for modern notions of nationalism, empire, and identity, few scholars have undertaken the task of connecting these earlier modes of discourse, particularly Romantic ideology, to questions that concern contemporary postcolonial writers.12 The specific form of national rhetoric created during the Romantic period proves surprisingly transferable to the New World, as Michelle Cliffs writing demonstrates.

Motherlands and Postcoloniality


In attempting to represent the status of women in the Jamaican national imagination, Michelle Cliffs first novel, Abeng (1984), enters into the dangerous territory of the deployment of woman as mother of the nation, identified with the landscape and a symbol of racial or cultural purity.13 Set in 1958, on the eve of Jamaican independence from Britain, Abeng ponders not only the history and future of twelve-year-old Clare Savage, but also the past and present of
11. Romantic nationalism as I use it here is but one form. Other forms of nationalism, with roots in the French Revolutions emphasis on non-essentialist citizenship and equality, do indeed exist. Cynthia Cockburn identifies several feminist nationalist movements: nineteenth century Italian, twentieth century Finnish, and several late nineteenth and twentieth century Asian anti-colonial nationalist movements in The Space Between Us: Negotiating Gender and National Identities in Conflict (London: Zed Books, 1998), 4045. David Scott, for one, in Conscripts of Modernity: The Tragedy of Colonial Enlightenment (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004) traces the influence of ideologies of Romanticism as created through the French, American and San Domingo Revolutions, which would eventually impact the creation of C.L.R. James The Black Jacobins. 12. An important intervention into the roots of nationalism comes from Paul Gilroys The Black Atlantic (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993). Gilroy usefully points to the importance of the racial ideologies of the Enlightenment to the creation of the discourses of modernity while largely ignoring the role of gender in the formation of the ideologies of race and nation. See also Ann Rigneys Imperfect Histories: The Elusive Past and the Legacy of Romantic Historicism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001) for a contextualization of the rise of Romantic views of nation and history and their legacies for historians; Saree Makdisis Romantic Imperialism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998) for an analysis of Romanticisms aesthetics making possible the viewing subject necessary for imperialism; and Ian Baucoms Out of Place: Englishness, Empire and the Locations of Identity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999) for his study of the importance of earlier notions of place and identity to contemporary British identity. 13. For recent work on Cliff see: M.M. Adjarian, Allegories of Desire: Body, Nation, and Empire in Modern Caribbean Literature by Women (Westport: Greenwood, 2004); Simone A. James Alexander, Mother Imagery in the Novels of Afro-Caribbean Women (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2001); Isabel Hoving, In Praise of New Travelers: Reading Caribbean Migrant Women Writers (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001); and Alfred Lpez, (Un) concealed Histories: Whiteness and the Land in Michelle Cliffs Abeng, MaComre 4 (2001): 173183.

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the nation of Jamaica. In Abeng, Clare Savage identifies rural Jamaica with her mother, and more importantly with an authentic Jamaican identity outside of her urban fathers theories and whiteness and ... needs.14 In the character of Clares mother, Kitty, Cliff deploys several very Romantic notions of national identity in order to create a sense of Kittys authentic Jamaican identity.15 The first of these is an idealization of the purity of country life and people: Town was evil, Kitty held (49). Kitty is aligned with an authentic Jamaican identity through her appreciation of the Jamaican landscape. The narrator of Abeng comments approvingly that Kitty had a sense of Jamaica that her husband would never have (52), stating that, Kitty came alive only in the bush, while Boy armed himself against it, carrying newspapers and books and liquor, and a Swiss Watch to mark off the time (49). Abeng bifurcates the identities of Clares Jamaican parents into an inauthentic and racist white father, and a racially mixed mother who honors the country traditions of Jamaicas past. Kitty, like the Romantic poet William Wordsworth, unwillingly resides in town but lives for the times she can be in the countryside. Concomitant with Kittys idealization of Jamaicas landscape is her connection to its people: The country people of Jamaica touched her in a deep placethese were her people, and she never questioned her devotion to them. ... She thought that there was no other country on earth as beautiful as hers (52). Like Romantic poets, Kitty reveres the folk past, as demonstrated when the family witnesses a country funeral. Listening to an ancient song, which the slaves carried with them from Africa (50), the normally stoic Kitty weeps, moved that such things had survived (53). In a rejection of the writings of English colonists, Abeng represents the landscape of Jamaica as having its own order and culture embedded in it. Rather than being simply undifferentiated bush, the country of Jamaica holds wonders:
Kitty knew the uses of Madame Fate, a weed that could kill and that could cure. She knew about Sleep-and-Wake. Marjo Bitter. Dumb Cane. Bissy, which was the antidote to the poison of dumb cane. ... She was convinced that the cure for cancer would be found in the bush of Jamaicawhich would yield anything to she who would recognize such things. As a girl she had studied with the old women around and they had taught her songs like the one the funeral procession had sung. (53)

14. Michelle Cliff, Abeng (New York: Plume, 1995), 80. Subsequent references to this work appear parenthetically in the text. 15. One of the strangest examples of Cliffs valorization of an essentialized black identity in her early work is her figuring of Kitty as authentically Jamaican through her African heritage, at the same time that she is acknowledged to be red. (Red denotes a light-skinned Jamaican who usually has recognizably African features, but who is also of European descent.) Unlike a feminist writer like Gloria Anzalda who celebrates a mestiza identity, Cliff does not locate in Kittys hybridity an important source of knowledge and power about colonialisms disruption of boundaries of race which might lead to a different kind of empowered subjectivity; only her blackness counts. Gloria Anzalda, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (San Francisco: Spinsters/Aunt Lute, 1987).

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In its portrayal of Jamaica, Cliffs narrative participates in a long tradition of (re)presenting the colonized landscape.16 Cliff creates a counter geography of the empires periphery by showing how, with the proper folk knowledge, the land of Jamaica holds a source of national renewal. Representing the landscape as a source of healing, the knowledge of which is passed down by women in the oral tradition, marks a space in Abeng where resistance to colonialism is not necessarily about biological motherhood. Indeed, as I discuss in the section on Cliffs later work, the landscape is a source of unity for an emerging Jamaican nation, even if feminized and fraught with memories of slavery. Although women as such are not figured as active participants in the creation of the new nation, mothers are held to be the progenitors of the essence of the nations identity. Repeatedly, these nationalist texts invoke the mother as resource, as inspiration (Proud was I that my country bred / Such strength, a dignity so fair as Wordsworth wrote in The Sailors Mother), by writers who were engaged in the difficult task of trying to form a national and racial identity out of the legacies of colonialism and slavery. An excellent example of woman-as-mother deployed to reinforce a sense of male identity occurs in Derek Walcotts poem The Star-Apple Kingdom, detailing Jamaica Prime Minister Manleys struggle to establish a democratic socialist state (19721980), the early setting for Cliffs second novel, No Telephone to Heaven. Walcott imagines a mother figure who held [Manley], as she holds us all, / her history-orphaned islands, she to whom / we came late as our muse, our mother / who suckled the islands (239242).17 This mother is a black rose of sorrow, a black mine of silence, / raped wife, empty mother, Aztec virgin / transfixed by arrows from a thousand guitars (160162). Walcott writes, her Caesarean was stitched / by the teeth of machine guns (168169). Once again the national subject with agency, Michael Manley, is constituted through the figure of the mother, characterized by one critic as Walcotts figure of woman/mother-as-landscape (86) who surfaces as the medium of consciousness that draws a despairing Manley in his meditative sojourn, back to the bonding of his roots as a son of soil, thereby helping to strengthen his purpose in the face of his ordeal (84).18

16. The national tale is at once travelers tale and anti-colonial tract, Katie Trumpener writes, it sets out to describe a long-colonized country as it really is, attacking the tradition of imperial description from Spencer to Johnson and constructing an alternate picture. The physical and cultural landscape of the periphery has its own beauty; as it arises organically from specific historical and geographical circumstances, a national art must be understood on its own terms, not forced into a prior aesthetic mold it can never fit. Katie Trumpener, Bardic Nationalism: The Romantic Novel and the British Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 142. 17. Derek Walcott, The Star-Apple Kingdom Collected Poems: 19481984 (London: Faber and Faber, 1992), 383395. All subsequent references to The Star-Apple Kingdom will be to this edition and will be cited by line number in parentheses in the text. 18. Patricia Ismond, Woman as Race-Containing Symbol in Walcotts Poetry, Journal of West Indian Literature 8, no. 2 (1999): 8390.

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One solution to the difficulty of creating a postcolonial Caribbean culture lies in a gesture to origins, to the link between mother and child. As completely artificial societies indelibly stamped with the pervasive legacies of imperialism, colonialism, and slavery, the Caribbean societies have had an inordinate difficulty in creating and maintaining a strong, cohesive national identity, Franklin L. Knight writes.19 Hortense Spillers reminds us that removal of the black father under slavery created a situation where the mother became the entire link to culture and family for her child: The African-American woman, the mother, the daughter, becomes historically the powerful and shadowy evocation of a cultural synthesis long evaporatedthe law of the Motheronly and precisely because legal enslavement removed the African-American male not so much from sight as from mimetic view as a partner in the prevailing social fiction of the Fathers name, the Fathers law.20 Abeng recreates the slave family described by Spillers by giving Clare a white father and a mother of European and African heritage. Cliffs own use of the mother as repository of authentic identity shows her to be a reader not only of the texts of Romanticism, but also the texts of West Indian nationalism. That she does so suggests that Romantic nationalisms emphasis on mothers and landscape is strategically used in twentieth century Caribbean literature as a discursive method to ground the postcolonial self. Her intertextual relationship with the deployment of the folk in earlier Caribbean texts establishes for Cliffs writing what the figure of the authentically Jamaican mother is supposed to do for Clare: give her a cultural inheritance in opposition to the colonizers Englishness. Contextualizing Cliffs novels within Caribbean literature helps us to understand her deployment of the tropes of the folk, landscape, and nationalized mother. These postcolonial tropes place Cliffs work in an intertextual relationship with several important texts from the immediate postcolonial period. While Cliffs novels clearly utilize a feminist perspective in their rendering of the slave past of Jamaica, Cliffs formulations of an authentic Caribbean identity ally her with the postcolonial imaginings of other writers such as Edward Brathwaite, George Lamming, and Derek Walcott, who articulate the nation by drawing on Caribbean folk culture and the folk mother.21 Marlon Rosss description of Wordsworths use of the folk

19. Franklin W. Knight, The Caribbean: The Genesis of a Fragmented Nationalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 307. 20. Hortense J. Spillers, Mamas Baby, Papas Maybe: An American Grammar Book, Diacritics 17, no. 2 (1987): 80. See also Edith Clark for a twentieth century analysis: My Mother Who Fathered Me: A Study of the Family in Three Selected Communities in Jamaica (London: G. Allen & Unwin, 1957). 21. I want to make clear however, that although there are similarities between the use of the figure of the mother in the work of writers such as Lamming, Brathwaite, and Walcott, they differ in their use of the folk and its relationship to an African past. Walcott, as is well known, has a much more ambivalent relationship to black nationalism than Brathwaite. As important, what Africa meant in the imaginations of the black nationalists changed over time. Brathwaite enthusiastically calls for an investigation of the connections between African and Caribbean culture in

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as a mediating function, enabling an organic-pastoral vision of nationality in which the natural attachment to land stabilizes a nation in the midst of rapid change and expansion might also be applied to many Caribbean texts produced in the first decades after independence.22 The essential qualities of the nations folk, the holistic relationship between the folk and the landscape, and the figure of the mother as identified with the landscape all embody emerging Caribbean nations.23 Cliffs writings differ, however, from the works of many male post-independence writers by focusing on the search for identity from a feminist perspective. Caribbean womens writing from the 1960s through the early 1980s continues the project of male nationalist writers by participating in the revaluation of the West Indian folk and landscape as guarantors of authentic identity and culture. They take this nationalist project in a new direction, however, by putting a feminist spin on this recuperation through their representations of folk mothers as nationalist agents. Caribbean women writers, Carolyn Cooper notes, deploy a strategy of reappropriating devalued folk wisdomthat body of subterranean knowledge that is often associated with the silenced language of women and the primitiveness of orally transmitted knowledge.24 Writer and critic Olive Senior traces the relationship of Caribbean womens writing of the 1980s to earlier works by male authors, arguing that:
The subject matter of Caribbean literature has [not] changed substantively over the yearsthere are common threads running through the literature from the forties and fifties which are still there in the work that is being produced todaythat is the search for an identity both personal and national ... What has changed, I agree, is the form, the way in which some of us are exploring these issues; for instance, the fact that Caribbean women writers have now come to the fore is opening up to us a completely new approach to the topic of the Caribbean motherone of our great literary preoccupationsand of our relationship with that mother.25 (Emphasis added)

In Abeng, then, we can see continuity with earlier works in the foregrounding of the role of the Afro-Caribbean mother and grandmother as producers of a rich cultural inheritance that can be revived in the wake of colonialism.

his early work, but in 1973 he critiques as romantic rhetoric the work of writers who do not know very much about Africa necessarily, although he reflects a deep desire to make a connection, Roots (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993), 211. 22. Ross, Romancing, 59. 23. A different approach to post-independence Caribbean literature might highlight the disruptions caused by slavery and colonialism within families and between the self and the landscape as identity problems that cannot be resolved through the figure of the mother or a return to rural roots. See, for example, the profound dislocation of Hyacinth from the aunt who raised her and the landscape of Jamaica when she returns home in Joan Rileys The Unbelonging (London: Womens Press, 1985). 24. Carolyn Cooper, Something Ancestral Recaptured: Spirit Possession as a Trope in Selected Feminist Fictions of the African Diaspora in Susheila Nasta (ed) Motherlands: Black Womens Writing from Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia (London: The Womens Press, 1991), 65. 25. Charles H. Rowell, An Interview with Olive Senior, Callaloo 11, no. 3 (1988): 484485.

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Abengs definitions of authentic Caribbean identity align it with the writing of other West Indian women writers, but produced from Cliffs own particular position, in her own words, as a mulatto from Jamaica, a colored immigrant to America, the child of a colonized society, because I am a female.26 While Abeng and No Telephone to Heaven were produced within the context of the West Indian literary tradition(s), Cliffs identity marks a site of difference from other Jamaican writers such as Erna Broder, in that she self-consciously chooses to investigate Jamaicas colonial past and national future as one who, because of her racial heritage and exile, is both insider and outsider to Jamaican culture. Abengs attempts to come to grips with a cultural identity for Clare, as well as a national culture for Jamaica, reproduces nationalist discourse that figures the mother as curator of national culture without agency in her own right. This strategy clearly maps a method to establish cultural authenticity both for Clare, and for Abeng itself within the existing narratives of Caribbean nationalism. This may be true for Cliff as well. In an essay on contemporary white West Indian writers, Kim Robinson-Walcott comments, Cliffs embracing of her black side is readily understandable, and not only in terms of her political sensitivities and moral conscience. The disparagement apparently accorded near-white people by fully white people in her childhood may have urged her to go to one extreme or the other.27 Cliffs own position within Caribbean writing has been repeatedly questioned, most notably in print by Pamela Mordecai and Betty Wilson, for her compromised authenticity in the rendering of Jamaican patois and in her description of the Jamaican landscape.28 Cliffs feminism and claiming of a black identity are considered suspect by some in the Caribbean context as a foreign fashion that [Cliff] has appropriated.29 Belinda Edmondson notes the discomfort of several critics when she points to Cliffs overtly feminist ideological project in provid[ing] an empowering history for West Indian women by portraying Kitty and indeed all black women in this novelas having a direct and unmediated linkage to a positive black history and consciousness.30 Since Cliffs feminism and claiming of a black identity are considered suspect, this theme of the mother serves to legitimize Cliffs work itself within Caribbean literary tradition.
26. Michelle Cliff, Sister/Outsider: Some Thoughts on Simone Weil in Carol Ascher, Louise DeSalvo and Sara Ruddick (eds) Between Women: Biographers, Novelists, Critics, Teachers, and Artists Write about Their Work on Women (Boston: Beacon, 1984), 314. 27. Kim Robinson-Walcott, Claiming an Identity We Thought They Despised: Contemporary White West Indian Writers and Their Negotiation of Race, Small Axe 14 (2003): 98. 28. Pamela Mordecai and Betty Wilson (eds) Introduction, Her True-True Name: An Anthology of Womens Writing from the Caribbean (Oxford: Heinemann Educational Publishers, 1990), xvii. 29. Belinda Edmondson, Race, Privilege, and the Politics of (Re)Writing History: An Analysis of the Novels of Michelle Cliff, Callalloo 16, no. 1 (1993): 182. Cliffs own acknowledgment of Kittys status as red contradicts any easy essentialism in the text between race and culture. Clearly Cliff valorizes Jamaicans African past, but as my argument should indicate, in distinction to critics such as Belinda Edmondson who note a racial binary in Abeng, the matter of origins and maternity is more complicated than that. 30. Ibid., 188.

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I want to underscore the heavily raced and gendered nature of this rhetoricboth within Cliffs work and in critiques of itwith its emphasis on origins and authenticity. The consequences of Romantic nationalism lies in the exclusion of certain women from active participation in nation formation within the postcolonial literary imagination, (including in fictions produced by women themselves) through a narrow definition of what constitutes an authentic female subject. Rhonda Cobham writes of the cultural cost of such representations of mothers as they occur in In the Castle of My Skin, by another important post-independence writer, George Lamming:
Within the parameters of his narrative [the unnamed mother] remains trapped, history-less and ultimately peripheral in the role assigned her by her son. We know no more of her than what he pieces together in his growing years of progressive alienation. She seems to have no identity beyond her role as his mother: parentless, without spouse or sexual desire.31

Cliff also creates such a mother figure in Abeng, Kitty, who functions as an anchor to her daughters authentic Jamaican identity, but who exists without agency herself. In this character, we can see the collision of two ideologies central to Cliffs work, feminist empowerment and postcolonial nation building, which creates an impasse the text cannot resolve. I complicate this reading of Cliff claiming an authentic Jamaican or black identity by noting a brief moment in Abeng which stresses hybridity that has not received much critical attention: the intertextual use of Walter Scotts Ivanhoe, considered one of the founding texts of Romantic nationalism. In a crucial scene in Abeng, Clare tries to work through the connections between race and family alliances by discussing Walter Scotts Ivanhoe with her lightskinned father, Boy Savage. Clares understanding of herself as a mixed-race character comes into conflict with Boy Savages use of absolutist racial categories that Ivanhoe also promotes. Abengs intertextual deployment of Ivanhoe has been largely overlooked by critics, but it is central to understanding the problem Cliff faces in trying to write a nationalist female character with agency. Cliffs deployment of Ivanhoe as an intertext is at once ironic and strategic, since Ivanhoe popularized nationalist modalities still in play two hundred years later. In the English language literary canon, all of Scotts work, but Ivanhoe in particular, functions as the first novelistic representation of Romantic nationalism.32 Ivanhoe idealizes the folk, using it to provide a narrative origin for the British nation by piecing the country together out

31. Rhonda Cobham, Revisioning Our Kumblas: Transforming Feminist and Nationalist Agendas in Three Caribbean Womens Texts, Callaloo 16, no. 1 (1993): 46. 32. It is widely agreed that Scotts novels were the first historical novels in the way we now use that term. As one critic notes, Scotts concept of the historical novel defined the boundaries of the playing field for both his contemporaries and those who followed him. Harold Orel, The Historical Novel from Scott to Sabatini: Changing Attitudes Toward a Literary Genre, 18141920 (New York: St. Martins Press, 1995), 6. See also Ann Rigney, Hybridity: The Case of Walter Scott in Imperfect Histories.

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of the separate peoples of England, Scotland, and Wales.33 The idealization of the beginnings of the nation, and of qualities considered essential to its citizens, may seem unremarkable to modern day readers. However, this was a new development during the Romantic period. Abeng engages with the nationalist discourses contained within Ivanhoe, specifically in the sections where English national identity is jeopardized through the threat of miscegenation. Abengs references to Scotts Ivanhoe can serve as a template for thinking about the intertwinings of nationalism, Romanticism, and gender in postcolonial literature. Laura Doyle writes that nationalism and Romanticism are connected through their joint concern with the figure of the mother who produces and embodies racial patriarchies. Doyle defines racial patriarchies as racialized labor hierarchies that are reproduced through stratified marriage practices.34 Ivanhoe, Doyle writes, illustrates how racialized cultural productions ... depend on the manipulation of the marriageable and racialized bodies of women.35 Women must be understood in racialized terms here, since it is only a specific kind of woman, the Saxon Rowena portrayed in opposition to the Jewish Rebecca, who is fit to become the wife of Ivanhoe and the mother of his children. The idealization of the folk and the landscape emerged in the Romantic period at the same time that women were increasingly upheld as the moral and racial bedrock of their country.36 Scott insists on the creation of a hybrid national character taking strength and courage from the Saxons, and civility and refinement from their Norman conquerors. And it is just at this point in history that the Jamaicans of Cliffs novel find themselves. They are poised on the edge of political independence with a choice to make about the creation of their new national culture. Confronted with the issue of racial identity and female agency, Clare argues that Jewish Rebecca is Ivanhoes real heroine, but her father maintains that the taint of Jewishness excludes Rebecca from such a position:
But Daddy, in Ivanhoe, it is Rebecca who is the real heroine, not Rowena. Dont be silly, its Rowena whom Ivanhoe chooses in the end; that is the point of the story. But its obvious that he really loves Rebecca; isnt it?

33. Gary Kelly points to Scotts importance to emerging nationalisms in the Romantic era: Scott demonstrated to more people than ever beforein Europe and America as well as in Britainthat the novel had literary potential of the highest order and that it was an ideological discourse of the first importance in constructing a new kind of national culture, one that comprised both national history and national culture. Gary Kelly, English Fiction of the Romantic Period 17891830 (London and New York: Longman, 1989), 140. 34. Laura Doyle, Bordering on the Body (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 6, 37. 35. Doyle, 42. 36. Linda Colley argues that women during the Romantic era used the ideology of mens and womens separate spheres to legitimize their involvement in politics. They did this by using their position as the moral arbiters of the nation to justify their involvement in, for example, raising money for the war against France, raising subscriptions in support of Queen Charlotte, and their protests against slavery in the West Indies. See the chapter entitled Womanpower in Colleys Britons: Forging the Nation 17071837 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992).

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Yes, he loves her, but Sir Walter Scott is showing that a Christian knight cannot be serious about his love for a Jew. She is an infidel in Ivanhoes eyes. She is dark and Rowena is fair. Rowena is a ladya Saxon. The purest blooded people in the world. Rebecca is a tragic figure. You know that great writers often create their characters with tragic flaws, so that no matter what happens, they cannot succeed. They will never win in the end. Well, Rebeccas flaw is that she is Jewishshe is a beautiful flawed woman; and Ivanhoe is frustrated in his love for her. Of course she cannot help what she is. (72)

Boy Savage, a light-skinned Jamaican married to a mixed-race wife, draws on ideologies of race and nation rooted in the Romantic period. To be the heroine of Ivanhoe is to occupy the position of mother of the British nation. Thus, Clare and her fathers argument over whether Rebecca or Rowena is the heroine enters into the heart the role gender plays in national identity. Clares discussion of Ivanhoe with her father presents her with some particular problems concerning identity. If Rebecca cannot be the heroine of Ivanhoe, if she cannot be the mother of the English nation because she is tainted by her Jewishness, then Clare does not know where to place herself as the mulatto daughter of a light-skinned Jamaican father (who also has distant African ancestry). Clare tries to question her fathers assertions of control over her own racial identity, but he retains the law of the father in his power to name and define. Clare asks her father what would happen if she married a Jew and is told that you would be an outcast also (73). Clare probes his racial categories:
But what if I loved him? That does not matter one iota. Suppose he was only half-Jewish. It doesnt matter. A Jew is a Jew. Then how come you say Im white? What the hell has that got to do with anything? Youre white because youre a Savage. But Mother is colored. Isnt she? Yes. If she is colored and you are white, doesnt that make me colored? No. You are my daughter. Youre white. (73)

Clares fathers responses puzzle her, and she sits next to him wondering how she could be white with a colored mother, brown legs, and ashy knees (73). For Clare, as well as the female characters in Ivanhoe, their racial identity is named and policed by men. The imperial nation exists not only as a racialized hierarchy, but also as a gendered one. The racial politics of Ivanhoe help us understand the boundaries of Clares pre-independence Jamaica. Writing about this period in Jamaica, Cliff states that: Those of us who were lightskinned, straight-haired, etc., were given to believe that we could actually attain whitenessor at least those qualities of the colonizer which made him superior.37 This internalized racism
37. Michelle Cliff, The Land of Look Behind (Ithaca: Firebrand Books, 1985), 72.

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creates a society where rarely will dark and light people ... achieve between themselves an intimacy informed with identity.38 Abeng and Ivanhoe exemplify Romantic nationalisms use of women as the touchstone of the nations past that must be carefully managed through proper marriages to insure the future identity of the race. Although embracing some aspects of Romantic nationalism, the space opened up by Clares questioning of Ivanhoes nationalist politics will lead Cliff in a new direction. Cliffs second novel, No Telephone to Heaven, shows Jamaicas inheritance of nineteenth-century modes of racial identity to be a significant barrier to the formation of the postcolonial nation. The invocation of the tropes of Romantic nationalism in postcolonial literature is thus a double-edged sword. In its insistence on the possibility of the recovery of a peoples unadulterated origins, Caribbean literature attempts to create a cultural space outside of colonialism even as it uses Romantic era tropes to do so. Nationalists use of racial rhetoric to establish the culture of the emerging nation also relies on essentialist notions of women as territory to be conquered or as mothers of the nation, reproducing some of the worst aspects of Romantic nationalism. This quandary over how to establish a multi-cultural nation occupies Cliff in No Telephone to Heaven, as the dangers of essentialist nationalism become apparent to her character, Clare Savage.

Cyaan Live Split: Negotiating Essentialist Nationalism


When our landscape is so tampered with, how do we locate ourselves? Michelle Cliff, Calibans Daughter: The Tempest and the Teapot39

No Telephone to Heaven describes Clares journey from the influence of her fathers idealization of England as the mother country, to her acceptance of a hybrid identity that allows her political agency without essentializing blackness. We come to understand that a rejection of the politics of traditional nationalism allows Clare to conceive of a way to return to her homeland. It also allows her to move towards resistance as she joins a guerrilla band determined to attack an American film set misrepresenting the Jamaican Maroon heroes Nanny and Cudjoe.40 Unlike Abeng, No Telephone contains not only an acknowledgement of the difficulties for
38. Ibid., 73. 39. Cliff, Calibans Daughter, 37. 40. As a point of plot clarification, No Telephone does not portray the guerilla group in much detail; the guerillas leader is not even named. The novel focuses on Clares journey as a displaced Jamaican, first as a child in New York and later as a graduate student in London. The chronological movement of Clares story is interspersed with short sections describing the guerilla group in the present. The novel cuts back and forth between the past and the present until the ending where Clares story and the guerillas plot to destroy an American film set come together to form the final chapter of the novel.

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contemporary Jamaicans in crossing color, class, and gender divisions, but also an attempt to create a new postcolonial identity. The very diversity of Jamaica poses a problem for a unifying political agenda. The opening paragraphs of No Telephone describe the necessity of the guerillas use of a common uniform to unite Jamaican men and women of different hues and backgrounds:
These peoplemen and womenwere dressed in similar clothes, which became them as uniforms, signifying some agreement, some purposethat they were in something togetherin these clothes, at least, they seemed to blend together. This alikeness was something they needed, which could be important, even vital, to themfor the shades of their skin, places traveled to and from, events experienced, things understood, food taken into their bodies, acts of violence committed, books read, music heard, languages recognized, ones they loved, living family, varied widely, came between them. That was all to be expected of coursethat on this island, as part of this small nation, many of them would have been separated at birth. Automatically. Slipped into spaces where to escape would mean taking your life into your own hands. Not more, not less. Where to get out would mean crashing through barriers positioned by people not so unlike yourself. People you knew should call you brother, sister. The people around her had a deep bitterness to contend with. Dressed as they were, they might move closer.41

The separation of family members at birth, we come to understand from this paragraph, undermines the formation of a national consciousness. The legacy of colonial rule with its insistence on the divisions of gender, class, and color continues to haunt the Jamaican family. As previous sections of this essay show, racial and gender ideologies of colonialism powerfully affect the way the family is conceptualized. White women within the British Empire become the boundary of who is British and who is not through the regulation of marriage and childbirth. Black women in nationalist West Indian writings are figured as mothers who either embody cultural heritage of the people, or who stand in support of the efforts of their sons in establishing a more authentic postcolonial identity. Clare and the members of the guerilla groups she joins internalize the colonial legacies of racism and classism. Crossing over for Clare is no less fraught than for the darker members of the guerilla group: A light-skinned woman, daughter of landowners, native-born, slaves, emigrs, Carib, Ashanti, English, has taken her place on this truck, alongside people who easily could have hated her (5). Clare internalizes the expected separation of her light-skinned self, adding to her list of regrets that she had not bucked her father and joined a demonstration decrying the murder of Dr. King. That she was not as dark as her sister, mother. That she allowed the one to become confused with the other, and so lessen her (113).

41. Michelle Cliff, No Telephone to Heaven (New York: Vintage International, 1989), 45. Subsequent references to this work appear parenthetically in the text.

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Given these divisions, an essentialist appeal to a single folk identity (typically constituted as the black folk, as we have seen) to solidify the nations identity must fail. In a nation composed of hybrid subjects, where no one is racially or culturally pure, the claims of black nationalists, derived from the ideologies of Romantic nationalism, can only be divisive in the New World context.42 Cliffs No Telephone to Heaven represents a different intervention into West Indian literature through its refusal to center the narrative on characters with a fixed identity. It enters into the difficulty of forming a multi-cultural nation, as in Jamaicas motto: Out of Many, One People, by refusing to assign fixed identities to its characters. In its most radical break with the nationalism of Abeng, No Telephone gives a place of honor to its character Harry/Harriet. While Abeng idealizes the rural folk of Jamaica, No Telephone gives the voice of postcolonial resistance to an ambiguously-gendered man who comes from the urban middle-class. The Harry/Harriet character is crucial to understanding the different political agenda in No Telephone. He chooses to live as a woman without having a sex change operation, locating his political and social identity through performance rather than in an essential physical manifestation. The choice is mine, man, she tells Clare, emphasizing her agency by stating, castration aint de main ting ... not a-tall, a-tall (168). Working as a traveling nurse with Kingstons poor, Harry/Harriet models for Clare a way out of the binary identity politics she finds herself trapped in, as when she confuses her light skin with her inability to stand up to her father and to protest Martin Luther Kings assassination. Harry, now Harriet, insists on the performativity of identity and activism:
None of her people downtown let on if they knew a male organ swung gently under her bleached and starched skirt. Or that white powder on her brown face hid a five oclock shadow. ... Had they known about Harriet, they would have indulged in elaborate name-calling, possibly stoning, in the end harrying her to the harborperhaps. And still she was able to love them. How was that? (171).

Clare realizes that in order for political change to come, she must acknowledge the realities of her privilege as a light-skinned Jamaican, so that she can ally herself with those who easily could have hated her (5). Clare meets Harry/Harriet during a visit to Jamaica after her mother has died, and it is she who is able to teach Clare about Jamaicas past of colonialism and slavery in such as way that it is not locked into a paradigm of defeat and sadness as it was for her mother. Harry/

42. For a discussion of the intersecting claims to purity and hybridity in Caribbean nationalism, see Shalini Puri, Canonized Hybridities, Resistant Hybridities: Chutney Soca, Carnival, and the Politics of Nationalism in Belinda Edmondson (ed) Caribbean Romances: The Politics of Regional Representation (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1999), 17.

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Harriet recalls for Clare the history of their island that she has forgotten. We are of the past here, (127) Harry/Harriet tells Clare, pointing to the Romantic era roots of Jamaicas present-day culture:
So much of the past that we punish people by flogging them with cat-o-nine-tails. We expect people to live on cornmeal and dried fish, which was the diet of the slaves. We name hotels Plantation Inn and Sans Souci ... A peculiar past. For we have taken the masters past as our own. That is the danger (127).

Working to change the masters past occurs on several different levels in No Telephone. The masters past includes a rigorous policing of the boundaries of gender and racial identity, primarily through the family. Cannon Schmitt writes of nationalisms long and varied involvement in the construction of normative (and also deviant) masculinities, femininities, and sexualities. In addition to representing the nation itself as a motherland or fatherland, nationalism has demanded of its male and female citizens an appropriately gendered and sexed national subjectivity.43 One of the most powerful manifestations of nationalisms construction of gendered subjects, as we have seen, comes through its placement of women as mothers of the nation who empower their sons without attaining agency in their own right. Harry/Harriet and Clare violate these norms through their common liminal identity: Harry/Harriet as transgendered, and Clare as having African ancestry although she is light enough to pass as white.44 While creating an empowered mother character would be one way to challenge this ideological inheritance, Cliff chooses a different route in No Telephone precisely through her rejection of the biological body, an appropriately gendered and sexed national subjectivity as Schmitt puts it, as the guarantor of identity and political affiliation. Clare attempts to identify with Harry/Harriet through their common liminality: hers of race and his of gender. Clare names this by describing them as neither one thing nor the other (131). Harry/Harriet tells her that while identity may be mutable, political activism cannot be: I mean the time will come for both of us to choose. For we will have to make the choice. Cast our lot. Cyann live split. Not in this world (131). We know from Harrys choice to become Harriet, even without surgery, that Cyann live split does not refer to a biological essentialism, but instead to the choice to participate in political action rather than accepting the status quo.

43. Cannon Schmitt, Alien Nation: Nineteenth-Century Gothic Fictions and English Nationality (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), 8586. 44. For an important intervention concerning citizenship in the Caribbean context see M. Jacqui Alexander, Not Just (any) body can be a Citizen: the Politics of Law, Sexuality and Postcoloniality in Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas in Catherine Hall (ed) Cultures of Empire: Colonizers in Britain and the Empire in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (New York: Routledge, 2000).

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In previous sections I read Abeng within the context of its commonalties with both Romantic nationalism and other West Indian literature in its deployment of the figure of the grandmother or mother in order to establish a sense of identity and authenticity. Cliffs choice in No Telephone to dispense with biological motherhood for Clare hints at another possibility for identity. Upon returning to Jamaica, Clare becomes ill with an infection that leaves her sterile. All that effort for naught, Clare thinks, Lightening up. Eyes for naught. Skin for naught. Fine nose for naught (169). The imperatives of heterosexuality emphasized to Clare in her conversations with Boy about Ivanhoe are suddenly removed. Boys mandate that Clare maintain her lightness and pass it on to children conceived in an appropriate marriage cannot be fulfilled. Clares infertility signifies another possibility for the formation of a national culture outside of the folk mother. In a groundbreaking article, Adrienne Rich notes that compulsory heterosexuality has become a model for every other form of exploitation and control.45 Richs comments reveal a new way to understand Cliffs choice of Harry/Harrriet and Clare as protagonists of No Telephone. Cliffs early work, including Abeng, concerns itself with the intertwining of family and colonial ideology. By refusing to replicate the modes of heterosexuality, including biological motherhood, No Telephone creates a space where national culture and resistance is enacted outside of the biological family. The novel describes Harry/Harriet and Clare as becoming lovers and setting up a home together before becoming members in the revolutionary group. Indeed, in doing so, No Telephone prefigures the work of the American activist group, Queer Nation, described by Lauren Berlant and Elizabeth Freeman as utilizing a kind of guerilla warfare that names all concrete and abstract spaces of social communication as spaces where the people live and thus as national sites ripe both for transgression and legitimate visibility.46 No Telephone actively rejects the modes of nationalism inherited from the Romantic period through its refusal to constitute the source of national culture and identity as coming through the biological mother. Harry/Harriets relationship with Clare and their work with the guerilla group become national sites enacting the creation of a postcolonial Jamaican culture. One of No Telephones most telling moments concerning the impediments of essentialist nationalism occurs when Clare tries to establish her authenticity with the guerilla group. When Clare finally becomes ready to join the revolutionary group, and to offer her grandmothers abandoned farm for their base, she first seeks to establish herself as a radical subject by naming her alliance to her grandmother and her grandmothers land. I owe my allegiance to

45. Adrienne Rich, Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Experience, Signs 5, no. 4 (1980): 660. 46. Lauren Berlant and Elizabeth Freeman, Queer Nationality in Silvestra Mariniello and Paul A. Bov (eds) Gendered Agents: Women and Institutional Knowledge (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1998), 247.

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the place my grandmother made, Clare tells the leader of the group (189). When questioned by the dark-skinned leader if Clare believes herself to be superior to someone of my color (190), Clare at first can only gesture to her origins: You are the color of my grandmother (190). The leader rejects her claim, saying: As you well know, that could be as nothing (190). The problem, as the leader of this group reminds Clare, is that the hierarchies of color are so deeply embedded in the Caribbean colonized subject that it is commonplace for members of the light-skinned middle-class to distance themselves from their poorer, darker relations. The denial of a hybrid identity on the part of the Jamaican middle-class should not be replicated, No Telephone argues, by essentializing African identity. The guerilla leaders rejection of Clares claims to authenticity through her ties to the land and her grandmother buried on that land show that it is actions, not essentialist identity politics that count. The reality taken in with [Clares] mothers milk is one of rigid class stratification within the family (190). Color, Cliff writes in the Land of Look Behind, was the symbol of our potential. ... We did not see that color symbolism was a method of keeping us apart: in the society, in the family, between friends. Those of us who were light-skinned, straight-haired, etc., were given to believe that we could actually attain whitenessor at least those qualities of the colonizer which made him superior.47 The light-skinned middle class, epitomized in Abeng by Boy Savages reading of Ivanhoe, essentializes their British heritage to the exclusion of their African ancestors: We learned to cherish that part of us that was them [white]and to deny the part that was not. Believing in some cases that the latter part had ceased to exist.48 Rejecting identity politics, Cliff speaks in Calibans Daughter to the process of ruination as a process of decultivation of the landscape, and a decolonization of the mind.
Ruinate, the adjective, and ruination, the noun, are Jamaican inventions. Each word signifies the reclamation of land, the disruption of cultivation, civilization, by the uncontrolled, uncontrollable forest. When a landscape becomes ruinate, carefully designed aisles of cane are envined, strangled, the order of empire is replaced by the chaotic forest. The word ruination (especially) signifies this immediately; it contains both the word ruin, and nation. A landscape in ruination means one in which the imposed nation is overcome by the naturalness of ruin. As individuals in this landscape, we, the colonized, are also subject to ruination, to the self reverting to the wildness of the forest.49

The guerillas in No Telephone take their first steps towards establishing a new nation over the imposed nation by recultivating Clares grandmothers ruinate land. They found, in the process of clearing the land, things that had been planted long beforebefore even the

47. Michelle Cliff, Land, 72. 48. Ibid. 49. Michelle Cliff, Calibans Daughter, 40.

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grandmotherwhich had managed to survive the density of the wild forest. Cassava. Afu. Fufu. Plantain (11). Although Cliff moves away from linking the folk with an essential national identity, this still suggests a Romantic representation of the landscapea guarantor of identity through an organic relationship with the nations territory. At its most fundamental, Colonization is an agricultural act, writes historian Frieda Knobloch.50 How then are we to interpret Cliffs writing of the colonization, ruination, and recultivation of the land? With the rise of modern nationalism in the Romantic period came a renewed interest in the relationship of the living to the dead.51 We might consider the gothic fascination with the dead and dying as more than an isolated fashion important only to that genre, but instead as a recurring motif in Romantic works. The dead are important ideologically for Romantic nationalism because they function, as Marilyn Butler writes, as the guarantee of our identity and the source of our claim to belong to one soil rather than another.52 No Telephone invokes the legacy of these claims in its portrayal of Clare Savages return to Jamaica to bury my mother and to reclaim the land of her grandmother. From a Romantic premise such as this, the novel contains a surprising conclusion about the tenuous nature of such claims to land and kin as the basis for the postcolonial nation. The relationship of the Caribbean subject to the landscape is not the same as for the Romantics because slavery and colonialism disrupt any easy notion of identification. Unlike, for example, Wordsworths visits to Lucys grave, where the poet perceives a sense of community and continuity, the landscape portrayed in No Telephone contains layers of vegetation, ruins, and artifacts. The graves of Jamaican ancestors are hidden, missing, and haunted. For the postcolonial subject, No Telephone suggests, the fixed relationship of citizen to land is not linear. After returning to her grandmothers property, Clare describes the landscape:
The five croton treesdragons bloodmarking off the burial place of slaves, at the side of the river, on a slight rise. Unquiet ground, thatchildren feared the anger of the spirits, who did not rest, who had not been sung to their new home. Her mother had told her of the slaves. Her people. Yes. And their sometime enthusiasm for death. They ate dirt, Kitty told her, when this life became too much for them. And who could blame the poor souls, she continued, who could blame them indeed. (174)

Such a history can only be partially recovered and as such resists direct claims to origins. Even Clares grandmothers grave, a much more recent human internment, cannot be found: The forest had obliterated the family graves, so that the grandmother and her husband, and their
50. Frieda Knobloch, The Culture of Wilderness: Agriculture as Colonization in the American West (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 1. 51. See Marilyn Butler, Romanticism and Nationalism: Talking to the Dead, La Questione Romantica: Revista Interdisciplinare De Studi Romantici 1, no. 4 (1995): 43. 52. Ibid.

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son who had died before them, were wrapped by wild vines which tangled the mango trees shading their plots (8). Characters such as Clare cannot easily locate their national past in such a landscape. While Abeng utilizes the figure of the mother to symbolize essential qualities of the land and folk, in No Telephone to Heaven the protagonists attempts to invoke a nationalism based on connection to place, family, and the folk cannot have the same meaning in Jamaica, the novel suggests, as in Romantic ideology. The racial and gender essentialism inherent in Romantic nationalism excludes women from nationalist agency and creates a divisive mandate for a multi-racial postcolonial nation such as Jamaica. One legacy of Romanticisms idealization of the landscape and the folk consists in its conversion into an oppositional discourse in Caribbean nationalist novels and poems that celebrate folk culture and the Caribbean landscape in an attempt to create a more authentic and successful postcolonial national culture. Understanding this political agenda in No Telephone is important, not simply to trace the legacies of Romantic nationalism in a display of the semantics of a literary heritage. I am not arguing here that Cliffs later work reverses the tropes of Romantic nationalism because it is an ideology that is bad or imperialist in and of itself, but because it clearly impedes an activism based on the multi-racial and diversely gendered New World population. For Cliff, the implications of the instability of national identity are of necessity the rejection of the essentialism of Romantic nationalism. The figure of the mother similarly acts as an undeniable tie to identity and authenticity for postcolonial subjects in the works I examine here, showing them as inheritors of this European mode of thought, even as they resist European political control. I would suggest that a non-essentialist approach to origins leads away from the politics of rooting national and cultural identity through the mother and to a feminized and exploitable landscape. No Telephone offers a paradigm of national identity based on shared experiences rather than on essentialist notions of race or landscape. This novel suggests something more risky, more threatening to the traditional boundaries of nationalism than earlier West Indian formulations: that all of us in the Americas are hybrid, creole subjects and that very hybridity can be the basis for a politics of nation which is neither racially exclusionary nor complicit in the maintenance of essentialist gendered identities.