Pathologies of Paradise: Caribbean Detours (New World Studies)

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Non-island cultures inhabit different spaces, where the opening or closing of frontiers acquires a meaningfulness that can never be experienced by islanders. Time and again we find the island represented as the locus of a transformation, a translation. On islands, things change or, as William Golding shows so dramatically in his Lord of the Flies , things rise to the surface and are made visible, often things that we wish we did not have to see.

As the Peninsula breaks off from the mainland, its European identity comes into question.

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Europe begins to make demands on the Peninsula to stop drifting:. Unquestionably a place of history and culture, Europe in these troubled times has shown itself in the end to be lacking in common sense. As islanders set apart from the continent, between or among continents and surrounded by ocean or sea, we seem to be always on the threshold of identities. The virtual spaces of islands are susceptible to translatability and articulate perspectives on the shifting relationship between self and other, center and periphery.

Islands place here and elsewhere in dialogue and, in this way, serve as sites of mediation between cultures. Within a global culture marked by inequalities and differences, islands induce a contrapuntal approach for literary and cultural criticism. Floating islands are like floating signifiers, bringing together topology and tropology in the motility that links the metaphoricity of floating or traveling islands with the translatability of culture.

If we are seeking a theory of translation in floating islands, we may find it in Aeolia, one of the original floating islands found in the Odyssey , Book The island is now considered to be one of the archipelago of volcanic islands near Sicily, known as the Isole Eolie Aeolian Islands that were settled by ancient Greeks in the sixth century BC. To help Odysseus return to Ithaka, Aeolus encloses the boisterous energies of the wind in a pouch to guarantee him a safe journey home.

Odysseus falls asleep when the shores of Ithaka are sighted, and his crew, curious to see what Aeolus had given their chief, open the pouch and release the winds, thus bringing another detour to the journey home. Our next landfall was the floating island of Aeolia, the home of Aeolus son of Hippotas, who is a favourite of the immortal gods. All around the isle there runs an unbroken wall of bronze, and below it the cliffs rise sheer from the sea. If Ithaka is both the point of departure and arrival, it may be like the source and the target in cultural translatability.

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This is a theme underlying the post-Homeric tradition of the second Odyssey. Experiencing disappointment and ennui, he prepares to set off on a second Odyssey beyond the Pillars of Hercules, or beyond the boundaries of the known world, and leave the rule of his home island to his son Telemachus. This proposes a more complex dialogic than the earlier poem of what the island home might mean. Keep Ithaka always in your mind. Arriving there is what you're destined for. But don't hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years, so you're old by the time you reach the island, wealthy with all you've gained on the way, not expecting Ithaka to make you rich. Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey. Without her you wouldn't have set out.

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She has nothing left to give you now. And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you. There it was that she gave birth to, and beheld, her blessed offspring. Atlantis is an insular other world beyond the frontiers of known time and space. It is beyond the Pillars of Hercules or beyond the frontiers of the known world at the time and it had existed nine thousand years before Plato tells the story.

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Not only does it belong to another space, but to another distant time as well. The story of Atlantis may designate the Other within Athens, and Menmosyne or memory is invoked to bring back knowledge of the apparently forgotten distant past to the Athenians of Plato's day.


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Interestingly, it is the Egyptians who remind the Athenians of their forgotten past, the Atlanteans who survive being the ancestors of the Athenians. Egyptian priests told the story of Atlantis to Solon, who passed the tale on to Dropides, the great-grandfather of Critias. Atlantis is an idealized but imperfect world in a time before the remembered beginning. Atlantis was destroyed by a deluge and thus the story constitutes an antediluvian myth. The dialogues provide a cosmogony and eschatology of the world of Atlantis, as well as the topography and ethnography of the island and its people.

The land is blessed with a wealth of natural resources and the inhabitants are proud and noble. The people are of semi-divine origin, descendants of Poseidon and the mortal Cleito, but because of hubris and the loss of the divine element, the gods punish them, and the island nation is destroyed and swallowed up by the sea.

Referring to Pytheas as his source, Strabo ca. AD 21 , in his Geography 2. To the early cartographers it was a kind of floating eidolon , at times shown separately in the seas around Iceland, at times identified with it. In literature Thule became a dreamland where basic distinctions, such as that between day and night, hot and cold, life and death are confused. The theme of islands and dystopia is already found in classical satire.

Syrian writer Lucian of Samosata ca. A dialogue between the inhabitants of a fertile floating island within a whate contains a visceral discussion on the irresolvable tension between dystopia, and the dubious nature of Edenic insularity. Be not afeard.

The isle is full of noises, Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.

Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices, That if I then had waked after long sleep, Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming, The clouds, methought, would open and show riches Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked I cried to dream again. The Tempest , 3. The period adds its own myths to the perception of the island: of Cyprus in Shakespeare's Othello and in Cervantes' El amante liberal. Both texts, written in the beginning of the seventeenth century were inspired by the fall of Cyprus to the Ottomans in While in El amante , the captive protagonist sadly contemplates the ruins of Nicosia and the destruction caused by the Ottoman occupation of Cyprus, in Othello , whose time of action is set before the capture of Rhodes by the Ottomans, the island represents an outpost on the border between Europe and the Orient, between civilization and barbarism.

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Both islands have been a site of multiple translations and a generator of new meanings concerning the relationship between East and West, past and present, myth and reality. The question of collusions and collisions between centre and periphery, between metropolis and colony runs through in different ways at different moments in time. Both evoke islands supposedly in the Indian Ocean with the Renaissance ideals of sensual delight in nature.

This floating island is fixed by Venus to receive the sailors who enjoy the sensual delights of this locus amoenus. Johnson and Boswell encountering fringe islands of the British isles such as the Hebrides. New problems of translatability arise in this period as epistemology and writing are derivative of empirical science as it developed in this period.

The encounter with other island worlds and peoples often upsets the epistemological system and the problem of knowledge itself becomes an anxious theme creating knew parameters for the contact zone of translatability. Coetzee focuses on such issues as language as symbolic order and how it is skewed in its relationship to gender, ethnicity, and culture. This raises interesting questions of cultural translatability that may be explored in his journey from his home island to the desert island where there is a translation from source to target.

Crusoe repeatedly frees himself from the constraints of his own island-nation by going out to sea, but his arrival on the Other Island is due to providence or accident the shipwreck. Several pages of the text are devoted to registering the objects that Crusoe managed to save from the wreck of the ship that brought him to the island. The wrecked ship does not sink but remains anchored a short distance from the land, and he goes to great pains to carry the signifiers of his culture into his new habitat, which he proceeds to conquer with the tools of agriculture and tools with which to inscribe and write.

The cultivation and enclosure of the land, the imposition of a temporal order is analogous with the writing process, which becomes the written text itself. I found pen, ink, and paper, and I husbanded them to the utmost; and I shall show that while my ink lasted, I kept things very exact; but after that was gone, I could not, for I could not make any ink by any means that I could devise. And this put me in mind that I wanted many things, notwithstanding all that I had amassed together; and of these, this of ink was one, as also spade, pick-axe, and shovel, to dig or remove the earth, needles, pins, and thread; as for linen, I soon learned to want that without much difficulty.

If the island space is opaque and resistant to translation, in the process of writing Crusoe inscribes his system of values and meanings as he does by inscribing his temporal order with notches on a wooden post:. Friday is rescued from his cannibal captors and tamed, so the translation and acculturation of Friday are marked by salvage or redemption. The translation strategy of land and people is a process of domestication where there is an effort to impose the values of the source culture.

As he wonders how he will survive on a desolate piece of rock, he is suddenly aware of another island, flying above him. This is the island of Laputa, which serves as a means of transport between other islands, and we follow Gulliver as he meets the inhabitants and discovers more about the mysterious island that floats above the surface of the world, and meets the inhabitants who rule over the continent of Balnibari below.

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