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Profiles
Edward Baugh
Merle Collins
 
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Professor Eward Baugh
 Edward Baugh, Professor Emeritus of English at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies was born in 1936, in Port Antonio, the capital of the northeastern Jamaican parish of Portland. After completing his secondary education at Titchfield High School, he won a Jamaican Government Exhibition to the University College of the West Indies to do his B.A in English. He subsequently won a R.S. McLaughlin Fellowship to do postgraduate studies at Queen’s University in Ontario, and a Commonwealth Scholarship to the University of Manchester where he obtained a Ph.D in English, in 1964. He taught at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West for three years (1965-1967) and at the Mona campus for over thirty-three years (1968-2001). He became Professor of English at the University of the West Indies, Mona in 1978, and he has held visiting appointments at The University of California, Los Angeles, Dalhousie University, University of Hull, University of Wollongong, Flinders University, Macquarie University, University of Miami, and Howard University.

His distinguished record of academic, administrative, and public service includes a lengthy stint as the Public Orator of UWI, Mona (1985-2002), three terms as Head of the Department of English, and Dean and Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Arts and General Studies. He has figured prominently as a leader in national, regional, and international literary and academic associations such as Jamaica P.E.N Club, West Indian Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies, and the Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies. He has adjudicated regional and international literary competitions and prizes such as the Guyana Prize for Literature, and the Commonwealth Writers Prize.

His publications include West Indian Poetry 1900-1970: A Study in Cultural Decolonisation (1971), Critics on Caribbean Literature (1978), Derek Walcott: Memory as Vision (1978), A Tale from the Rainforest (1988), and It Was the Singing (2000). His most recent publication is an annotated scholarly edition of Derek Walcott’s Another Life (2004) with Colbert Nepaulsingh. He is currently working on a biography of Frank Collymore, and a monograph on Derek Walcott for the Cambridge University Press series on African and Caribbean writers.

Edward Baugh has garnered an international reputation as an authority on Anglophone Caribbean poetry in general, and on the work of Derek Walcott in particular. A critically acclaimed poet himself, Baugh brings a poet’s sensibility to his critical writings, which are characterized by elegant clarity of expression and insightful close readings that pay attention to the intricacies of a writer’s craft, the subtleties and vicissitudes of form and language while cognizant of the social, cultural, and historical contexts that inform literary texts. His critical interventions are marked by sophisticated theoretical concerns, but without jargon-ridden obscurantism and partisan stridency. His criticism, from 1965 to the present, has consistently highlighted the role of the critic as cultural mediator and interpreter between the writer and society. Like Matthew Arnold, Baugh recognizes the symbiotic relationship between culture, criticism, and society, as evinced in essays such as “Towards a West Indian Criticism” (1968) and the groundbreaking “The West Indian Writer and His Quarrel with History” (1977). His work on Frank Collymore, Derek Walcott, and Lorna Goodison has also established critical benchmarks for the study of these writers, fulfilling his own criteria of good criticism by making “telling statements on particular books by way of thought-provoking observations on general principles” (Towards a West Indian Criticism”). Baugh’s criticism, in its rigorous and balanced negotiation between local and global contexts, and public and private concerns, as well as its insistence on lucidity, close reading, reasoned evidence, and judicious propositions, has certainly enhanced the Caribbean critical tradition.

The 23rd Annual Conference on West Indian Literature is honoured to have Edward Baugh as our plenary speaker, given his wide knowledge of West Indian literature and criticism, his personal experience of the cultural wars of the 1960s and the 1970s, and his exemplary career as a superb and inspiring teacher and intellectual mentor whose intellectual generosity and rigorous expectations shaped several generations of Caribbean literary scholars. The vitality of Caribbean criticism today, as evident in the important work of Evelyn O’Callaghan and Carolyn Cooper to name just two of Baugh’s protégés, is a testament to the scope and quality of his contribution to the region’s intellectual life.

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