The Ontology of Kont: A New Epistemology of Temporal Aesthetics in Afro-Caribbean Speculative Fiction
Date of Award
Master of Arts
Katherine Chiles, Lisa King
In order to move away from discussing Caribbean texts in relation to European and American literary movements, this thesis seeks to name and define Afro-Caribbean ontology. I name this ontology kont and track the ways alternate relationships to reality, planes of existence, and the inability to rely on stable boundaries radically transform how Afro-Caribbean people understand the world. My definition of kont is built by synthesizing African theory, trauma theory, and applying an indigenous lens to Caribbean history and art forms. I investigate the impact the Middle Passage and hybridity have on the current Afro-Caribbean world view and create an epistemological framework for identifying how that worldview shapes works of Afro-Caribbean speculative fiction. This framework is grounded in my exploration of the relationship between the West African trickster as defined by Robert Pelton and kont. This exploration reveals the role of narrative structure in constructing a type of realism that I call kontist realism. As opposed to western realism, kontist realism relies on literalizing the internal experience of characters as they navigate rapid change and trauma. After defining kont and introducing the concept of kontist realism, I apply these ideas to Wilson Harris’ The Palace of The Peacock and Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber and track the threads of kont in these two works of Afro-Caribbean speculative fiction. This analysis explores the centrality of the trickster, spatial distortion, and temporal distortion in each author’s constructed reality, and argues for analyzing these texts through a Caribbean centered lens: kont.
Timothy, Zoie C., "The Ontology of Kont: A New Epistemology of Temporal Aesthetics in Afro-Caribbean Speculative Fiction. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2020.
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