Allusions in Omeros:
Notes and a Guide to Derek Walcott's Masterpiece

Maria McGarrity

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"A lucid and accessible guide through the complex and often intimidating web of literary, historical, and cultural references in one of the great literary works of the twentieth century."--Víctor Figueroa, author of Not at Home in One’s Home

"McGarrity's user-friendly apparatus helps the reader navigate the allusive cross-currents of the cultural and mythological resources on which Walcott draws in creating his New World Mediterranean epic."--Lee M. Jenkins, author of The American Lawrence and The Language of Caribbean Poetry

Omeros, a transatlantic Homeric epic poem, is widely considered the masterwork of Nobel laureate Derek Walcott and one of the most important pieces of postcolonial Caribbean literature. Yet it is also Walcott's most challenging work. In Omeros, the author constructs strategic layers of allusions and references that occasionally escape even seasoned scholars.
Maria McGarrity's guide is the ideal resource for mapping the intricate matrix of allusions in this influential poem. Using extensive research in St. Lucia, the birthplace of Walcott and the starting point for his protagonist's journey, she illuminates a wide range of references that include classical literature, world mythologies, colonial politics, modern painting, the Caribbean contexts of Omeros, modern epics, the African elements of West Indian culture, and the critical African nexus within global cultures. In addition to exhaustive textual annotations and summaries of the poem's seven books, McGarrity draws attention to the lyricism of Walcott's language, the amazing originality of the poem's structure, and the stunning gaps that are spanned when far-removed allusions unexpectedly relate. When the references and interconnections in Omeros are fully understood, these points of linkages usher readers into a fascinating continuum of time and place in which the rich historical past is wrapped up in the contemporary present.

Maria McGarrity is associate professor of English at Long Island University. She is the author of Washed by the Gulf Stream: The Historic and Geographic Relation of Irish and Caribbean Literature and coeditor of Irish Modernism and the Global Primitive.
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