An Introduction to Caribbean Francophone Writing: Guadeloupe and Martinique

By Sam Haigh | Go to book overview

7
Challenges to Writing Literature in
Creole: The Cases of Martinique and
Guadeloupe
Jane Brooks

The appearance of a chapter concerned with the process and challenges of writing literature in Creole, in a book devoted to Caribbean francophone literature, may seem paradoxical. However, writing in the Lesser Antilles has been shaped by the coexistence of the Creole and French languages since colonization, as, regardless of the language a writer selects, he or she is inhabited by both Creole and French at the moment of writing. The pressure of the two languages on each other has not always been acknowledged, due to their radically different statuses. To this day, French is perceived as the legitimate language of formal written expression and of high culture, whereas Creole is not generally regarded as a fully-fledged language by the population at large. Its lower status, however, has made it the preferred code of in-group solidarity, appropriate for the expression of an Antillean popular oral culture. As will be seen, at key points in history, the denial of the reciprocal influence of the two languages has been overtly inscribed within each literature, in an attempt to underscore the purity of both French and Creole. Nevertheless, this polarization seems unsustainable in the light of recent developments, particularly the increased use of intermediate varieties of both languages in the form of gallicized Creole and creolized French.

This chapter will begin with a brief historical sketch, which traces the changing status of Creole in relation to that of French in the Lesser Antilles, with particular reference to the rejection of Creole by successive groups of the population and to the circumstances which have led to the emergence of the intermediate forms of both languages. A second section will then examine ways in which the relationship between Creole and French has been conceptualized by various linguists, as these conceptualizations have influenced many creolophone writers. These writers generally move in

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