Sylvia Wynter

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Sylvia Wynter, 1970s.

Sylvia Wynter (Holguín, Cuba, 11 May 1928) is a Jamaican dramatist, novelist, critic, philosopher and essayist. Her work combines insights from the natural sciences, the humanities, art and anti-colonial struggles in order to unsettle what she refers to as the "overrepresentation of Man." Black studies, economics, history, neuroscience, psychoanalysis, literary analysis, film analysis, and philosophy are some of the fields she draws on in her scholarly work.

Sylvia Wynter is a Professor of Spanish and Portuguese and of African and Afro-American Studies, Emerita at Stanford University. Wynter was born in Cuba in 1928, but grew up in her parents’ native Jamaica under British colonial rule. She attended King’s College London in the years following World War II, where she earned both her BA and MA, studying modern languages, specifically Spanish. Between 1954 and 1962, Wynter was one of a group of London-based Caribbean writers working “to give imaginative reality to a Caribbean landscape as yet ‘unstoried, unenhanced;’ and to reconfigure the projected negative stereotype of ourselves as ‘backward natives,’ that had been projected from the logic of colonial discourse.” Her writing included work for BBC-TV and Radio. She travelled extensively, living for a time in Norway and Sweden. In 1963, Wynter was appointed to a tenure track position in Hispanic literature at the University of the West Indies; in 1970, she was promoted to tenure. In 1974, she moved to the University of California at San Diego as Professor of Comparative & Spanish Literature. She was specially appointed to help to create the new interdisciplinary program, Literature and Society in the Third World. In 1977, Wynter moved to Stanford as a professor in both the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and the Department of African and Afro- American Studies. She chaired the latter department from 1977 to 1980 and 1989 to 1990 and was acting chair in 1986. Wynter was awarded the Order of Jamaica in 2010. (2017)



  • with Jan Carew, Under the Sun, radio play, 1958. Produced for “Caribbean Voices”. Inspired Wynter 1962.
    • En bro til himlen: Radiohørespil, trans. Kurt Kreutzfeld, Copenhagen: Danmarks Radio. Hørespilarkivet, [1962], 92 pp. (Danish)
  • Shh, It's a Wedding, musical, 1961.
  • with Jan Carew, The Big Pride, tv film script, 1961. Written for Drama '61, ITV. [1]
  • Miracle in Lime Lane, play, 1962.
  • 1865: Ballad for a Rebellion, play, 1965.
  • with Alex Gradussov, Rockstone Anancy, pantomime, 1970.
  • Maskarade, play, 1973. Printed in West Indian Plays for Schools, ed. Jeanne Wilson, Jamaica Information Service, 1979; repr. as "Maskarade: A 'Jonkunnu' Musical Play", intro. Sylvia Wynter and Yvonne Brewster, in Mixed Company: Three Early Jamaican Plays, ed. Yvonne Brewster, London: Oberon, 2012, 9-132, EPUB. See Davies in McKittrick 2015. [2]
  • The Hills of Hebron, London: Jonathan Cape, 1962, 283 pp; New York: Simon and Schuster, 1962, 315 pp; repr., intro. Anthony Bogues, afterw. Demetrius L. Eudell, Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle, 2010, xxviii+340 pp. Novel; inspired by the play Under the Sun (1958). See Toland-Dix 2008 and Davies in McKittrick 2015.
  • "Malcolm X", New World Quarterly 2:1, Dead Season 1965, p 12. Written Feb 1965.
Translated plays
  • Federico García Lorca, The Barren One, 1959. Trans. of the play Yerma for BBC Radio’s Third Programme. (Creoles and pidgins, English-based)
  • Federico García Lorca, The House and Land of Mrs. Alba, 1968. Trans. of the play La Casa de Bernarda Alba. An extract publ. as "Essay and Play Extract: The House and Land of Mrs. Alba", Jamaica Journal 2:3, Sep 1968, pp 48-56. See Owens 2017.
  • Francisco Cuevas, Jamaica Is the Eye of Bolívar, 1979.


  • We Must Learn to Sit down Together and Talk about a Little Culture: Decolonizing Essays, 1967-1984, Leeds: Peepal Tree, 2021, 500 pp. [3]
Essays, criticism

Many of these scans have been sourced from an online collection by True Leap Press, a radical publishing collective with members in Illinois and New York. Thank you!


  • Daryl Cumber Dance, "Conversation with Sylvia Wynter", in New World Adams: Conversations with Contemporary West Indian Writers, Leeds: Peepal Tree, 1992. [11]
  • Joshua Bennett, Jarvis R Givens, "'A Greater Truth than Any Other Truth You Know': A Conversation with Professor Sylvia Wynter on Origin Stories", Souls 22:1, Jan-Mar 2020, pp 123-137. [12]


Books, journal issues
  • Journal of West Indian Literature 10(1/2): "Sylvia Wynter: A Transculturalist Rethinking Modernity", eds. Demetrius Eudell and Carolyn Allen, Kingston, Jamaica: University of the West Indies, Nov 2001. [13]
  • "Sylvia Wynter", in Fifty Caribbean Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, ed. Daryl Cumber Dance, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1986. [16] [17]
  • Katherine McKittrick, "Demonic Grounds: Sylvia Wynter", ch 5 in McKittrick, Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle, University of Minnesota Press, 2006, 121-141.
  • Kelly Baker Josephs, "The Necessity for Madness: Negotiating Nation in Sylvia Wynter’s The Hills of Hebron", in Disturbers of the Peace: Representations of Madness in Anglophone Caribbean Literature, ed. Kelly Baker Josephs, University of Virginia Press, 2013, pp 45-68. [20] [21]
  • Greg Thomas, "The Body Politics of 'Man' and 'Woman' in an 'Anti-Black' World: Sylvia Wynter on Humanism's Empire (A Critical Resource Guide)", in On Maroonage: Ethical Confrontations with Anti-Blackness, eds. P. Khalil Saucier and Tryon P. Woods, Africa World, 2015, pp 67-107.
  • Nelson Maldonado-Torres, "Latin American and Caribbean Colonial Studies and/in the Decolonial Turn", in The Routledge Hispanic Studies Companion to Colonial Latin America and the Caribbean (1492-1898), eds. Yolanda Martínez-San Miguel and Santa Arias, Routledge, 2020. Focuses on Anibal Quijano and Sylvia Wynter. [22]

See also[edit]