Jamaica Kincaid: “Placing an Asterisk”
Through “In History,” Kincaid crafts a counter-narrative to common stories of early American history. For example, here’s a poem by Michael Drayton about the early English settlers of Virginia. Drayton (and many others) saw the settling of the New World as divine providence, a God-gifted return to the Garden of Eden:
“And cheerfully at sea
Success you still entice
To get the pearl and gold,
And ours to hold
Earth’s only paradise!”
Kincaid recognizes that the “ours to hold” in Drayton’s poem is one that creates “others” who exist on the periphery of this narrative, both through colonization of Native peoples, and later, the enslavement of Africans as a means of cultivating the land. In the later half of “In History,” Kincaid explicitly connects Carl Linnaeus of taxonomy with the ideas of power, control, and dominion of nature, and by extension, oppression of less powerful people.
For this response, I’d like you to choose a line/sentence/quotation from Kincaid that strikes you as particularly meaningful or powerful. Explain what draws you to this quotation, and how it reflects the relationship of humans, nature, and social/cultural/racial identity. How does it connect with our prior course discussions?
I’d also like you to consider the following quotation from Kincaid: “In almost every account of an event that has taken place sometime in the last five hundred years, there is always a moment when I feel like placing an asterisk somewhere in the text, and at the end of this official story place my own addition” (26).
If given the chance to review history, to change the way people thought or were taught about a specific historical moment, how would you do so? Where would you place your “asterisk”? What details about this historical event do you think it’s important for people to know that they might not know otherwise? This event can be from anywhere in the world and anytime in history.
Please write a response minimum 270 words and you can directly response the article without any format.