Cross-Cultural Nostoi: Wilson Harris’s The Mask of the Beggar
Harris’s novel The Mask of the Beggar appropriates and reinterprets Homer’s Odyssey. This chapter engages with Harris’s underlying philosophy developed throughout his long literary career, paying particular attention to his emphasis on building cross-cultural bridges between peoples. The role performed by Wilson’s trope of the beggar’s mask within the novel is considered, relating it to Odysseus’s humble disguise on Ithaca. His complex use of a Cyclopean motif is explicated, and the way in which his work engages with and contests Bakhtin’s theories of polyphony and the novel, is considered. In addition, an early, little-known drama of Harris’s is seen to have had a direct influence on Derek Walcott when he came to write Omeros.
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