Presentation by Christopher De Shield, Ph.D., and Gerardo Polanco, M.A. at the 2nd Belize National Research Conference, 2019.
Of the novels in Zee Edgell’s oeuvre, her third—The Festival of San Joaquin—seems at once deeply representative and highly atypical. That is, while still treating Edgell’s recurring thematic and social concerns, the novel shrugs off the frank mimesis that characterizes her other works. Despite this novelty, Festival is relatively neglected in the critical literature. We make a claim that Edgell’s achievement in this particular novel is distinctive: her literary deployment of local folklore is unique. While folklore is often used in Belizean Literature, it is generally treated there in one of two ways: infantilised as ghost story—told expressly for fascinating children—or in novel retellings—for the preservation of tradition. In Festival of San Joaquin, Edgell deploys folkloric figures as an organizing motif; she offers a reworking of folklore that aspires toward recuperative ‘active myth’. Exploration of her work might reveal it as amenable to an indigenous archetypal criticism but such a criticism can only contribute to efforts at decolonization should it interrogate its own problematic adoption of folkloric figures whose indigenous origins have been obscured in the post-colonial era.
Key Words : Belizean literature, folklore, history, Belizean art