Caribbean Literary Heritage—a new project that raises awareness of the trajectory of Caribbean literature and encourages engagement with the region’s literary archives—has now launched.
Funded by the Leverhulme Trust, the project promotes literary and archival preservation in the Caribbean and the diaspora, as well as bridging connections between the literary past and present with an interest in exploring the new challenges and possibilities of born digital initiatives. It aims “to bring awareness of Caribbean literary heritage and promote its future by connecting creative practitioners, interested publics, and cultural organisations, as well as writers and academics.”
According to the project site, its principal aims are to create a fuller literary history of the period 1940-1980; to recover stories of forgotten writers and writings; to help writers save today’s manuscripts and papers for tomorrow’s researchers; and to bring together academics, archivists and writers to discuss the changing nature of Caribbean literary archives across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Introduction (Caribbean Literary Heritage site): It is well-recognised that the Caribbean has produced extraordinary writers and writings across the twentieth century. Not only are there two Nobel Laureates (Derek Walcott and V. S. Naipaul), but in 2014 the Forward Prize for Poetry went to Jamaican Kei Miller, in 2015 the Man Booker Prize was awarded to Jamaican Marlon James, and in 2016 Trinidadian Vahni Capildeo won the Forward Prize for Poetry. The signs of a hopeful literary future can also be seen in the literary festivals now flourishing on many islands, in new small presses such as the local Blue Moon Publishing and the transnational Peekash Press; and in the demonstrable support for developing Caribbean Literary culture from international organizations including the Commonwealth Writers Foundation, the British Council, and CaribLit. These efforts to stimulate the creative economy and foster literary talent and readers in the Caribbean will help safeguard an illustrious literary future.
This project is concerned with the Caribbean literary past and the region’s tangible and intangible literary heritage. It is particularly interested in neglected writers and writings at risk of being lost, and in thinking about what influences such precarity. At present, there is no established platform to access the location and scope of authors’ papers, including many scattered and undocumented sources. The literary histories that researchers and students can access are often incomplete and privilege male writers, as well as those who migrated and published with presses in the global north. This project wants to enable fuller literary histories to be told and their sources to be known, preserved and made accessible.
By engaging with living writers across generations to raise awareness around the value of their manuscripts, correspondence and other papers, the project also seeks to safeguard future literary histories in the making. Furthermore, it recognises that literary heritage is a living concept as well as a set of material sources, and that ideas of tradition need to be refreshed as relevant and inspiring for readers and researchers today.
For more information, see www.caribbeanliteraryheritage.com
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