Much West Indian literary criticism may be said to reflect two general approaches to the literary text. One approach tends toward the formalist school, and the other displays a socio-historical slant. Of course such generalizations run the risk of obscuring particular subtleties and nuances of critical emphasis, but at the same time they provide valuable insight into the nature of West Indian criticism. The implicit binarism in such a generalization reveals its own bias and provisional nature. It too is fictive, as fictive as the formalist procedures which repress diachrony in favour of the synchronic, or as the historical narrative which labours to obscure its own hermeneutic cracks as it represents the putative facts of history. At the same time, representing the Corpus of West Indian criticism as a locus of ideological conflict tends to foreground the ideologies which compete for prominence, and reveals the hegemonic underpinnings of these ideologies. In other words, what is at stake is far more than a disinterested exegesis of literary texts. Each analysis is itself symbolic of a certain political stance, that effort and desire to represent existence and experience in a particular way, In addition, the characterization of West Indian criticism as an arena of ideological conflict, falling into the two broad categories indicated earlier, facilitates an understanding of the critical enterprise as bound up with the construction of identity. The construction of identity which is so much a function of the West Indian novel for example, is no less an important force in West Indian criticism. Indeed, Harold Bloom's 'anxiety of influence11 notwithstanding, the crisis of identity is a fundamental issue for the West Indian poet also, as Derek Walcott eloquently demonstrated at the 1988 West Indian Literature Conference in Jamaica.



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