The winner of the Department of English Essay Prize for 2021 is James Walton for his paper “Mutilating the Western Corpus: The Postcolonial Deconstruction of Césairean Cannibalism”. James shows how Aimé Césaire, a Martinican writer, adapts William Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1611) in order to deploy “the language of colonialism …as a weapon against its own racist rhetoric”. Specifically, James focusses on Césaire’s ironic use of the colonialist trope of the savage cannibal in his play, Une Tempête (1969): Césaire’s adaptation of Shakespeare is a form of artistic cannibalism that forces the audience to reexamine the assumptions that motivated colonialism in the first place. While Deconstruction often gets negative press, James demonstrates that this critical method can reveal the injustices ingrained in colonialist discourse that marginalizes–and even demonizes–those who are culturally “Other”. Deconstruction can be a useful diagnostic tool, even though it ultimately does not provide a solution to the brokenness of human beings.
James also gets the nod in Second Place for his paper, “Hauntological Messianicity in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead”. Using the insights of John Caputo, James argues that spectral figures in Robinson’s novel represent a faith that believes in what it cannot (yet) see.
The English department would also like to recognize, by way of Honourable Mention, Renessa Visser for her essay “The Postcolonial Power of Transcontinental Voices in The Translator”. Renessa shows how Leila Aboulela weaves the concept of translation into her novel about faith in the spaces between Sudan and Scotland, Islam and Protestant Christianity.