Gladys Lindo’s legacy in letters: reuniting the Women of Caribbean literary and broadcasting history with their achievements

Mcderra, Jennifer (2023) Gladys Lindo’s legacy in letters: reuniting the Women of Caribbean literary and broadcasting history with their achievements. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Very little is known about women’s agency in creating the literary ecosystem between the Caribbean and the UK which began in the mid-twentieth century and continues to thrive. In terms of record keeping, research and publications, attention has tended to focus on the contribution of men in the UK in relation to both broadcasting and publishing. This thesis examines how women in the Caribbean have contributed to the development of the region’s literary cultures and the creation of the transnational networks that sustain these. It also investigates why these contributions by women have remained largely unacknowledged.

At its centre, this thesis recovers Gladys Lindo, a prominent and as yet unacknowledged ambassador for Caribbean writing. Born and settled in Jamaica, Gladys Lindo worked as the BBC literary representative in the 1940s and 1950s, a critical moment in the emergence of Anglophone Caribbean literature partly due to the renowned Caribbean Voices radio programme. Restoring Gladys Lindo to Caribbean literary history involves a major revision of existing archival scholarship and offers a theoretical contribution about how literary history can sustain exclusions as it intersects with social hierarchies and norms.

Through archival traces from Birmingham, England, to Gladys Lindo’s home in Kingston, Jamaica, and varied oral histories, her literary legacy is restored. Extensive original and unpublished materials gathered from private and institutional archives worldwide are presented and reviewed. Analysis of her unpublished letters demonstrates how Gladys Lindo’s written correspondence wielded influence over a male-dominated, London-centric literary environment from her home in Jamaica, challenging current understanding of how this transnational literary network operated and was shaped and sustained at such a formative period.

The thesis evidences how Gladys Lindo played a key editorial role in and made a more significant contribution to the development of Caribbean literature in the mid-twentieth century than she has been given credit for, complicates and contests the strongly established narrative that BBC producer Henry Swanzy singlehandedly supported and curated the 1950s generation of breakthrough Caribbean writers, and illuminates the political, social, and power processes by which women go missing from the narrative. It is argued that the overlooking of a figure as significant as Gladys Lindo illustrates how blind spots are created and preserved in literary history, by demonstrating how the methodological approach which enabled her fullest recovery yielded new information about other women. Gladys Lindo’s recovery is understood and presented in relation to the literary women working in the Caribbean from the mid-twentieth century until the present day.

In this way, the thesis provides a model for restoring other important unacknowledged contributions, reveals how this new understanding of mid-twentieth century women’s agency in Caribbean literary development has parallels with women’s contemporary experience, and suggests how it can benefit those working to promote and support Caribbean writers and their work today.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing
Depositing User: Nicola Veasy
Date Deposited: 27 Mar 2024 11:07
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2024 11:07


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