Postcolonial Writings and Transgression of Boundaries: Reading Caryl Phillips’s Crossing the River as a Dialogic Text
AbstractAlthough Caryl Phillips’s Crossing the River has received considerable critical attention, the focus has been mostly on the issue of diasporic/exilic consciousness in the novel. However, its dialogic strain, the constant, endless intentional and value-laden dialogue into
which it enters has not been adequately recognized. This critical gap forms the focus of this essay, whose central thesis is that a close reading of Crossing the River will demonstrate the untapped potential of Bakhtin’s dialogic theory for interpreting the spirit and the structure
of this novel which coalesces genres, geographical spaces, historical events, languages, cultures, philosophies and beliefs to produce a ‘communal’, many-voiced text that crosses a number of borders and transgresses multiple boundaries. This is in line with Stuart Hall’s
argument that fictional recreations of history and identity in postcolonial literature often rely on appropriate narrative techniques that can capture and foreground the complexity and enormity of the peoples’ experiences. In Hall’s words: “The past is always constructed
through memory, fantasy, narrative, and myth” (1996:13). This paper, therefore, examines the strategies employed by Phillips to negotiate the narration of the phenomenon of slavery in his novel, Crossing the River.