I read English Language and Literature for my BA at Oxford, with much of my work focusing on transnational modernism. My BA dissertation considered the novels of the Guyanese painter, writer, and archaeologist Denis Williams in relation to the time that he spent in Nigeria during the 1960s. Drawing on the archives of the BBC and the publisher Calder & Boyars, along with Williams’s unpublished journal, I sought to recover the relationship between the experimental prose style that he characterised as ‘a knowledgeable disrespect for the novel’ and his research on West African sculpture and philosophy.
My current work extends these concerns to investigate the ways that Caribbean writers, including Wilson Harris and Kamau Brathwaite, responded to literary modernism in mid-century Britain. The culmination of this will be my MSt thesis, which will examine Brathwaite’s time at Pembroke College, Cambridge, in the early 1950s. Here I will explore the influence of varied ideas about the value of a literary education—from William Wordsworth and F. R. Leavis, to Frank Collymore and Neville Dawes—on Brathwaite’s thinking. Taking Brathwaite’s memories of being ‘undergraduately uncertain’ as my starting point, I will suggest that his repeated revision of poems from this period elucidates his lifelong struggle with experiences of aesthetic education and “de-education”: the challenge, in his words, of establishing what it means to learn ‘to choose the “right way” the right path … the right txt(!)’.
At Ertegun House I look forward to sharing my work with an international and interdisciplinary community and hope to host a series of conversations in 2024 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Denis Williams’s pathbreaking book, Icon and Image: A Study of Sacred and Secular Forms of African Classical Art (1974).