Lecture Notes for HUMA 3305- Lecture 1, Sept. 13 2012
CALYPSO AND LANGUAGE: THE SOCIO-HISTORICAL CONTEXT
The Caribbean as a “created” society of voluntary and involuntary migrants
A. The Emergence of a Caribbean Oral Tradition
1. THE IMPACT OF THE SLAVE TRADE AND SLAVERY
The implications of the slave trade and its vagaries for the transference of cultural
practices and institutions and the creation of racially and ethnically segmented societies.
During slavery the limitations on autonomy for the enslaved and its implications for the
maintenance and development of cultural institutions.
The struggle for physical and psychological survival.
The urgency of the need for communication in the context of duress
The underlying homogeneity/commonalities of West and Central African grammars as
the basis for the reconstruction of language communities.
The emergence of creolized forms of European and African languages and a creole patois
through the processes of the homogenization of African language practices and
adaptations to the dominant European language forms.
This created language as the basis for the emergence and development of a reconstructed
oral tradition in the vernacular.
2. DEVELOPMENTS IN THE POST-SLAVERY ERA OF COLONIALISM
Limitations on the availability of and the attitudes to the provision of popular education.
The implications of the dependence on religious organizations for the provision of
The emphasis on rote learning as the preferred pedagogical practice.
The attempts to “colonize” the intellect and (hence the imagination) by the emphasis on
the use of non-local material at the expense of local material in the content of the
The use of education for control and social mobility.
The development of an almost pathological reverence for evidence of book learning and
facility with Standard English as reflected in the development of the ORATORICAL
The reconstructed oral tradition (although illegitimated, socially ostracized, without
respectability, and with limited autonomy) therefore develops as the sole repository
of reflections of the society and the world and the experiences of the colonized
articulated in the vernacular.
3.The Trinidad CONTEXT 2
Trinidad as a frontier society of late plantation development- the implications of a
shorter experience of slavery for the formation of institutions and attitudes.
The implications of the settlement in the nineteenth century of large numbers of
free Africans without the direct experience of enslavement.
The emergence of Trinidad as a prime receiver of streams of voluntary and
indentured immigrants throughout the nineteenth and the first few decades of the
twentieth century. They bring language, cultural institutions and musical styles
and it is out of this mélange that the calypso would emerge.
The struggle for cultural hegemony in this multi-cultural society especially
against the imposition of English (Anglo-Saxon) cultural dominance.
Language, Education and Religion as the major battlegrounds of this struggle and
the implications of this for the form (stylistic qualities), content, and function of
Control and censorship: Formal and informal censorship in the colonial society-
books, newspapers, film and eventually calypso and the implications of this for
the enhancement of the reputation and function of the calypso and the impact on
content and on stylistic qualities.
4. CHANGES IN THE S