[Caribbean Literature]

Hypertext and Robert Antoni's Divina Trace

Part Four: Agency

David P. Lichtenstein '99, Brown University, Contributing Editor, Caribbean Web

Note: Jaishree Odin's article "The Performative and Processual: A Study of Hypertext/Postcolonial Aesthetic is now published on the Postcolonial web. Thus, after each quote taken from the article, the symbol *** will link to the actual passage.

In my essay on Divina Trace, "Our Literature", I noted how the novel created a new form of Caribbean agency for itself and other works to come. One might think that convergence with hypertext would mean becoming subsumed by a larger, western-dominated, homogenizing school of thought. However, the structure of hypertext (a structure mimicked in certain ways by Divina Trace) prevents such a dominance, as Odin explains:

Theorizing the hypertext environment in terms of the performative and the processual denies supremacy to any cultural text as no text can exist apart from the living experience of these texts. ***

In similar fashion, Divina Trace offers a conception of a universe in which binaries imposed and created by the west no longer exist. Instead, the novel puts forth a heterogeneous and nonlinear narrative that reverses trends of unity and a dominant discourse traditionally found in print texts. Divina Trace seeks agency for the Caribbean by using this nontraditional structure to give voice to a variety of people from the region. No longer will the Caribbean be silenced by more powerful voices; no longer will one voice be expected to speak for an entire region. This novel functions much as George Landow describes hypertext:

In terms of hypertextuality this points to an important quality of this information medium: hypertext does not permit a tyrannical, univocal voice. Rather the voice is always that distilled from the combined experience of the momentary focus, the lexia one presently reads, and the continually forming narrative of one's reading path. (Hypertext 2.0, p. 36)

Thus we can describe a few key elements of Divina Trace that allow it to both converge with hypertext and still maintain a new voice for the Caribbean. First, the structure with multiple narrators and multiple voices (much like a hypertext document created by several authors) permits no one voice to take precedence over others and thereby silence them. Further, it forces the Caribbean to be conceived of not as a single unit, but rather a diverse conglomeration of characters and cultures. Second, Antoni's reliance on storytelling and oral history makes clear that the dynamic interaction between narrator and audience, so obvious in a hypertext document where the reader must determine her own path through a text, underscores the existence of the novel. Finally, Antoni's persistent investigation and revision of the past through the eyes of the present keeps Divina Trace at once decisively modern and yet allows a refiguring of the past, so essential to those struggling still with the blights of West Indian history. In the end, the worry about this Postcolonial novel losing its voice to a larger discourse proves unfounded, as that larger discourse of hypertext has in fact only added to the agency that Divina Trace seeks.


Landow, George. Hypertext 2.0: The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

Odin, Jaishree. The Performative and Processual: A Study of the Hypertext/Postcolonial Aesthetic. Full Text Online.

Hypertext and Divina Trace

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