Caribbean Imaginations in Twenty First Century Avant-Gardes

In this dissertation, I look at contemporary Caribbean writers Jorge E. Lage (Cuba), Rita Indiana (Dominican Republic) and Guillermo Rebollo-Gil (Puerto Rico), among other experimental writers and artists, to make the case for the relevance of new media in the production of Caribbean imaginations today. These three relatively young writers have received increasing recognition as part of a new wave of Caribbean narrative. However, the complexity and range of their emergent and non-canonical work has yet to be examined more broadly in Caribbean cultural studies. I argue that their aesthetic repertoire includes the appropriation of technological forms such as internet discursive practices regarding identity politics and that through this appropriation they configure a collective yet antinational Caribbean discourse. My research is therefore in dialogue with new media studies as well as with the Caribbean’s rich histories of intellectual critique and avant-garde aesthetics. I work with the premise that new technologies trigger new literary forms and support the inclusion of alternative collective memory in public discourse. Consequently, my research brings to the fore how these authors adopt digital technology into their fiction to record traumatic episodes omitted in hegemonic discourses. New media scholarship looks at post-digital subjectivities emerging from internet based media, which is relevant to my project (Manovich, Jenkins, Chun). But it doesn’t elaborate on how new technologies impact the content and form of literature as pre-digital media. How can metaphors of digital memory or interfaces and overt inclusion of online references in literature inform the understanding of Caribbean imaginations today? Caribbean scholars have looked at the emerging trends of literary representations of new media (Price, Dorta, Maguire). My project builds on these contributions to add questions about democratic politics seen through the lens of new media studies. I generate a comparative paradigm, working across all three Hispanic Caribbean islands, to highlight the presence of a series of shared concerns among contemporary authors and work against the insular tendencies of Caribbean criticism. It demonstrates that these writers’ understanding of new media as an experimental literary form is connected to their anti-racist, anti-colonial and queer democratizing impulses, which we have seen proliferating at their best in digital practices.  

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