Dr. Sheri-Marie Harrison on Marlon James and Caribbean Literature
BY DARLINE DESIL
Dr. Sheri-Marie Harrison visited Westminster on Thursday, Oct. 22 to give a lecture in Coulter Science Center Lecture Hall on Marlon James, the winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize.
James is the first Jamaican-born writer to win the prestigious literary award.
Harrison, an associate professor of English at the University of Missouri in Columbia, discussed James’ prize-winning novel, “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” as part of her lecture, “Permission to be Appalling: Marlon James and the Reshaping of Anglophone Caribbean Writing.” The novel is a fictional perspective on the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in Jamaica in the 1970s.
Harrison spoke about Jamaica’s economic state, which became the backdrop for “A Brief History of Seven Killings.” After Jamaica after it received its independence in 1962, the country needed money to build infrastructure in cities around Jamaica. The Jamaican Prime Minister had applied for a loan from the International Monetary Fund to develop programs for health care, education and safety. However, because of the IMF’s strict regulations, the loan could only be used for certain programs, such as importing and exporting goods. This caused Jamaica to become a nation of economic exploitation.
Harrison also discussed James’ two previous novels, “John Crow’s Devil” and “The Book of Night Women.” She mentioned that the protagonist’s narrative in “The Book of Night Women” caught her by surprise. She said it is not a conventional slave narrative because one of the main characters seems content achieving her master’s affection rather than participating in a slave revolt.
Harrison talked about how James pushes the boundaries of what Caribbean writers are expected to write about. She said James looks at different aspects of what it means to be from Jamaica and from the Caribbean.
When asked what he thought about Harrison’s lecture, Xolo Msomi, ’18, said: “I like the way she unpacks it in a neoliberalism way. She talks about race and radicalism, which makes you understand the way race plays a role in Jamaica. James is an unconventional character. James’ role is a critique of Jamaica.”
Kaitlyn Rosholm, ’18, said she thought the talk was informative.
“The different topics she was covering [were] very interesting,” Rosholm said. “She is very personable.”
More of Marlon James’ “A Brief History of Seven Killings” will be covered this spring in Dr. Heidi LaVine’s course, Booker Prize-Winning Fiction.