An Introduction to Caribbean Francophone Writing: Guadeloupe and Martinique

An Introduction to Caribbean Francophone Writing: Guadeloupe and Martinique

An Introduction to Caribbean Francophone Writing: Guadeloupe and Martinique

An Introduction to Caribbean Francophone Writing: Guadeloupe and Martinique

Synopsis

There has been an explosion of interest in Francophone studies, as postcolonial and diaspora literatures more generally have gained recognition both within and outside the academy. Identity, culture and history as well as issues relating to class, race, and colonialism, and the literary production itself have always been central to Caribbean Francophone culture and are matters currently of hot debate. From the growth of the negritude movement, principally associated with poetry, through to the rise of the novel, contributors to this book explore the theoretical, political and philosophical debates that have informed, and continue to inform, the rich and varied tradition of Caribbean Francophone literature.In recent years, the number of Francophone Caribbean women writers has increased significantly and experimental writing has featured more prominently. Contributors explore these and other trends, mainly in the literatures of Guadeloupe and Martinique. In providing the only available overview of this important literature and in positioning it critically, this book makes an invaluable contribution to students and scholars alike.

Excerpt

The Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, with which this volume will principally be concerned, are among France's oldest colonies: they have been French for longer than Calais, Strasbourg or Nice and, as overseas departments (départements d'outre-mer, or DOM), they remain French today. These islands of the ‘French Antilles’ were ‘discovered’ by Christopher Columbus at the time of his exploration of the Americas Guadeloupe in 1492 and Martinique in 1502 along with two other territories which were also to come under French control: the island named Hispaniola by the Spanish in 1492, later Saint-Domingue and now divided into the Dominican Republic and the Republic of Haiti, and the dom of French Guiana (la Guyane) situated on the north-east coast of South America and ‘discovered’ in 1499.

None of these four territories was settled by the French until the seventeenth century, with that of Guiana proving the most difficult to settle due to the vastness of the area and the hostility of the climate. the plantation system (or, rather, the often smaller ‘habitation’ system) is, of course, what distinguished France's Caribbean colonies from those it founded later and in different parts of the world. While in Guiana it proved impossible to eradicate the native Carib population, since large numbers of them fled into the inaccessible interior, in Guadeloupe and Martinique the Spanish had already begun what amounted to a campaign of genocide by the time that the French settlers arrived around 1635. Having failed to force the remaining Caribs to work the land, the settlers either exterminated them or drove them out, to neighbouring Dominica, and introduced a system of indentured labour, bringing ‘engagés blancs’ on three-year contracts from France. It was only when this system failed, a few years later, that the French began to bring African slaves, mainly from the Gulf of Guinea, to Martinique, Guadeloupe and Guiana, thus following the example of the Spanish, who, from 1502, had already begun importing slaves to Hispaniola.

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