Testing Relation: Breaking and Balancing Testimonies of Prisoner, Slave, and Holocaust Survivor in Caryl Phillips’s Higher Ground

Nadine Flagel


Higher Ground intervenes in strained Black-Jewish relations by juxtaposing three superficially unconnected tales: the narrative of an African collaborator with the slave trade, the letters of a black male prisoner in the 60s US, and the indirect discourse of a female Polish Holocaust survivor. Echoing intertextual prison writings, the prisoner makes jarring analogies between prison and slavery and the Holocaust. These eruptions of failed rhetoric, or catachreses, disrupt artistic discourses of atrocity, requiring that readers recognize the humanity and symmetry of polyphonic, diasporic voices and the ways trauma silences such voices.


Caryl Phillips; polyphony; trauma; Black-Jewish relations; slave narratives; prison writing; Holocaust writing

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