I argue that both Rita Felski’s postcritical model (as articulated in The Limits of Critique
) and its academic reception are made possible only by ignoring or erasing African-American and Afro-Caribbean modes of engagement with art that predate and complicate the critical-postcritical binary. To counteract the vanguardism of this trend in literary studies, I pair Caribbean philosopher-poet Edouard Glissant’s meditation on the origins of Creole speech as an indirect language of “detour” with Nathaniel Mackey’s theorizing of black art as “paracritical”—a mode that assimilates performance and critique, language and metalanguage, and that sits adjacent to (and not against or behind) traditionally academic discourses of engaging with literature. If Glissant provides the cultural and philosophical frame for an Afro-Caribbean way of reading literature, Mackey supplies the artistic metaphor par excellence of the paracritical hinge, voiced in the idioms of jazz and blues. Finally, I examine how Glissant and Mackey’s ideas find formal and aesthetic expression in Trinidadian-Canadian author Dionne Brand’s 2005 novel What We All Long For
, paying attention to the reader response engendered by the adjacencies of violence, empowerment, possibility, and desire in the novel. In order to analyze What We All Long For
, we must promote the liveliness and vivacity of the reading experience and
put the text under ethical scrutiny, evincing the paracritical faculty that Afro-Caribbean art demands: commingling the twin pleasures of reading and interpretation, establishing a counter-hegemonic model of literary engagement that implicates the reader without stripping away reading’s pleasure.
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