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Associate Professor @ Department of English at Washington University in St. Louis


J. Dillon Brown is an associate professor in the Department of English at Washington University in St. Louis, with affiliations in the Department of African and African American Studies Department, Comparative Literature, and American Culture Studies. He specializes in Anglophone Caribbean, postcolonial, and world literatures. His articles and reviews have appeared in Modern Fiction Studies, The Global South, ARIEL, Journal of West Indian Literature, and Contemporary Literature, among other places. He is the author of Migrant Modernism: Postwar London and the West Indian Novel (2013) and the co-editor, with Leah Rosenberg, of Beyond Windrush: Rethinking Postwar Anglophone Caribbean Literature (2015). He is currently working on a project investigating how the United States has figured in the Caribbean literary and cultural imaginary over the long twentieth century.

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Black Power in Literature


Performing Black Power in Earl Lovelace’s The Dragon Can’t Dance and Is Just a Movie

This paper will examine the portrayal of Black Power in the two Earl Lovelace novels that most directly reflect on that movement: The Dragon Can't Dance (1979) and Is Just a Movie (2011). The analysis will begin from a pronounced (but critically overlooked) oddity in the earlier text: although the events of The Dragon Can’t Dance quite plainly centre on the 1970 Black Power rebellion in Trinidad and Tobago, the novel effaces any visible markers of the influence of Black Power from its depiction of events. Indeed, it goes out of its way to ridicule Black Power via a marginal character who adopts only the superficial stylings of the American-born political movement for personal gain. Although the later novel directly names Black Power and meditates on its aftereffects, here, too, the movement is seen to be distinctive primarily for its empty promise and theatricality. The paper will thus reflect on the implications of this dismissive portrayal vis-à-vis understandings of Lovelace's palpably Afro-centric political leanings, with an eye on his understanding of the efficacy of performance (and performativity), as well as his disposition toward North American hegemony in the Caribbean basin. Ultimately, the paper will argue that examining the novels’ uneasiness surrounding both the national lineage and ‘stylishness’ of Black Power helps reveal Lovelace’s fears that even his 2 proposed solutions to the region’s post-independence social and political problems unwittingly remain structured by neoliberal, American-inflected values.

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