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Publication Type
Conference Proceedings
Author, Analytic
Robinson-Walcott, Kimberly A.
Author Role
Presenter
Author Affiliation
Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies
Paper/Section Title
A Matter of Taste: Exploring the Popularity of Some Recent Works of Jamaican Fiction
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Proceedings Title
Twenty-Second Annual West Indian Literature Conference: Caribbean Currents: Navigating the Web and the Word
Date of Meeting
March 20-22, 2003
Place of Meeting
University of Miami. Coral Gables, Florida
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Abstract
It is often easy for literature scholars to separate fiction into the categories of ‘serious’ versus ‘popular', or ‘quality’ versus ‘trash’. Such categorizations extend to all aspects of culture: there is, for example, ‘high’ art and ‘low’ art, ‘high’ fashion and ‘low’ fashion (or, in Jamaica, uptown versus downtown fashion), haute cuisine and junk food, classical music and dancehall, architect-designed homes and “hurry-come-ups”. In all of these cultural areas, there are references by designated ‘experts’ in the respective fields to ‘good taste’ and ‘bad taste’. But who are the arbiters of taste? This paper explores the popularity of a number of titles published recently by Jamaican writers, both at home and abroad (for example, Colin Channer’s Waiting In Vain and Osmund James’ Tough Girls Don’t Dance). Many literature scholars, cringe at the mere thought of some of these works. Yet the immense popularity of these titles (in contrast to the lack of popularity of other recently published, more ‘serious’ works such as Margaret Cezair-Thompson’s The True History of Paradise), demands exploration. Is it simply that sensationalism sells? The works themselves, coarse, vulgar bordering on pornographic, structurally flawed or contrived as they may be, demand attention.....
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