“Intertextualities and Contradictions in Cambridge”
In Cambridge by Caryl Phillips, the history of the slave trade is exposed through different points of view or narratives, one by an Englishwoman and another by a slave called Cambridge. Phillips wants the reader to understand how European merchants treated the slaves and make a connection to what they went through. Evelyn O’Callaghan is one of the editors of the Journal of West Indian Literature. She had many interests like contemporary West Indian ‘diaspora’ literature, narratives of indentured servitude, the creole language in Caribbean literature and culture, etc. In 1993, O’Callaghan writes an essay called “Historical Fiction and Fictional History: Caryl Phillips’s Cambridge” so readers can understand and speculate more thoroughly about the novel, providing evidence that Phillips used other texts as reference.
O’Callaghan starts her essay by exposing the idea of fiction saying: “If there is nothing to reveal but fiction, then fiction, some writers believe, can't tell us about anything but itself” (34). In this quote, the author makes it clear that Cambridge is composed of self-conscious fiction because of the fact that it is composed of intertextualities. Intertextuality is the shaping of texts' meanings by other texts. It can include an author’s borrowing and transformation of a prior text or to a reader’s referencing of one text in reading another. This means that Phillips used texts from other authors in his novel to make the story more factual. The narratives by Emily (the Englishwoman) and Cambridge (the slave) point out their fictionality because of their conventions of rhetoric and structure. O’Callaghan gives emphasis to this point of fiction in the novel of Cambridge so readers can understand how the novel is not completely true because Phillips does a historical reconstruction of the European record of the West Indies. Cambridge is divided into three parts. Part one is composed of...
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