An Introduction to Caribbean Francophone Writing: Guadeloupe and Martinique

By Sam Haigh | Go to book overview

3
Frantz Fanon: The Routes of Writing
Patrick Williams

In the world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself.

Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

It has become something of a commonplace of modern literary theory that a text is not the bearer of a single coherent and identifiable meaning determined by the intentions of the author. If as a result it is now unexceptional for literary texts to be the subject of multiple and conflicting interpretations, that is still a rather less common fate for the work of cultural and political commentators, especially, perhaps, for someone whose writing is apparently unambiguous, even uncompromising. Fanon, however, seems always to have been, and to continue to be, the subject of a remarkable variety of competing readings and, before examining in detail the directions taken by Fanon’s writing, it is worth glancing at some of the directions in which critics currently wish to take him.

For an earlier generation of critics in the 1960s and 1970s, Fanon was fought over largely in terms of his political analysis; currently, his work is a theoretical battleground within the broad field of post-colonial studies.1 Henry Louis Gates, for example, has written a frequently cited but rather problematic survey of the varied uses and misuses of Fanon in contemporary theory.2 In a similarly sceptical vein, Benita Parry, in her well-known article ‘Problems in current theories of colonial discourse’, uses Fanon as the basis for a critique of the post-colonial theorizing of Homi Bhabha, Gayatri Spivak and Abdul JanMohamed, and points out how Bhabha,

____________________
1
For introductions to the field of post-colonial studies, see, for example, Peter Childs and Patrick Williams (1997), An Introduction to Post-Colonial Theory, Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall/Harvester Wheatsheaf; Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman, eds (1993), Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader, Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf; Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, eds (1995), The Post-Colonial Studies Reader, London: Routledge.
2
Henry Louis Gates (1991), ‘Critical Fanonism’, Critical Inquiry, 17, pp. 45770.

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