The Recalcitrant Muse: Race, Sex and Historical Tension in the Search for the West Indian (Trans)subject

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This paper explores the critical tensions surrounding the figure of 'Mariella' in Wilson Harris's Palace of the Peacock (later referred to as Palace). It examines the novel in its critical life by looking at the collective body of literary criticism on this text by Michael Gilkes, Hena Maes-Jelenik, and Sandra Drake. It makes two major arguments, the first methodological and the second textual. First, it argues that problems which arise in Harris's Palace are in fact compounded and exaggerated in its treatment in literary criticism. The second argument holds that the figure of Mariella is a recalcitrant element in Harris's work that resists the attempt to create a transcendent Creole subjectivity by Harris. This critique of Palace ultimately has implications for studies of Caribbean nationalism, Creole subjectivity, and our understanding of 'woman' as a complex and insufficiently elaborated historical category in Caribbean literary studies.

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