The Francophone Caribbean Today: Literature, Language, Culture

The Francophone Caribbean Today: Literature, Language, Culture

The Francophone Caribbean Today: Literature, Language, Culture

The Francophone Caribbean Today: Literature, Language, Culture

Synopsis

"The volume sets out to provide a panorama of the diversity of the Francophone Caribbean, an area which is becoming ever more widely studied in Anglophone university departments of French studies. . . . The increasing interest of students of French and Francophone Studies in the Caribbean should ensure a broader readership, and the volume is wide-ranging enough to serve as a general introductory critical text."

Excerpt

The essays in this volume consider various literary and linguistic aspects of francophone Caribbean writing at the beginning of the twenty-first century, after eight or nine decades that have brought rich growth and astonishing change. Following its tentative beginnings as a colonial literature experimenting with European genres and representing diverse social groups in terms of European perceptions, francophone Caribbean writing acquired a distinctive voice in the first half of the twentieth century through authors inspired by the African heritage of the region's majority population. Using the tools of Negritude or indigénisme, the great writers of this era – Aimé Césaire of Martinique, Jacques Roumain of Haiti – ensured that the racial and cultural legacy of Africa, long denied or overlooked by the educated middle class, could no longer be excluded from any literary portrayal of modern Caribbean society.

At stake was the issue of cultural identity – an issue inevitably bound up with racial identity and social class. This was a time less than a hundred years away from the end of slavery, when the interests of a disparate population were often in conflict. Césaire's emphasis on blackness and affiliation with Africa was an inevitable and long-awaited counterbalance to the decades when white or lightskinned West Indian writers presented a view of reality limited by the outlook of their circle, ignoring or condescendingly romanticizing the life of the nonwhite poor. Césairean Negritude was in effect a rehabilitation of the Africandescended peasantry and working class. It introduced a new type of romanticization, in which Africa became the great mother country of the black . . .

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