Estrangement, empathic failure, and the provocation of a critical cosmopolitan vision in Caryl Phillips's The Nature of Blood

Alan Liam McCluskey*

*Corresponding author for this work

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2 Citations (Scopus)


The Nature of Blood (1997) is perhaps the most formally experimental novel Caryl Phillips has yet produced, and features an innovative combination of literary devices such as polyphony, defamiliarization, and intertextuality. In this essay, I will argue that an overlooked effect of these techniques is the provocation of a self-reflexive, historically conscious and critical view of human subjectivity that chimes with what Rebecca Walkowitz (2006: 2) calls a "critical cosmopolitan vision". This is a way of seeing that is suspicious of the prevailing modes of interpretation and understanding that attend a given historical context, and which attempts to look beyond fixed notions of identity and belonging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-228
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Commonwealth Literature
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Caryl Phillips
  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Empathy
  • Estrangement
  • Otherness

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