With the traditional parameters of what constitutes history and historical event as alienating as colonization itself for the francophone Caribbean, Edouard Glissant argues to historicize alienation by plotting new forms of resistance against domination and oppression, forms based not on defining moments but instead on intuitive, neurotic instances that bubble to the surface thus breaking the silence. Using the abyss as a metaphor for this history/memory, Glissant writes of “a reverse image of all that had been left behind, not to be regained for generations except (...) in the blue savannas of memory or imagination.” It seems that it is in these blue savannahs, in this synesthetic space, that the past comes to life. A closer look at André and Simone Schwarz-Bart's Un Plat de porc aux bananes vertes, a novel that itself has been largely side-stepped by traditional literary continuums and criticism, offers a literary approach to these blue savannahs.
Elizabeth Duchanaud received her PhD in French literature from New York University, where her research focused on works from the francophone Caribbean. Her doctoral thesis has since been published as Reading the French Caribbean through Edouard Glissant (2009).
Milan Kundera's claims In L'Art du roman (1986) that the European novel subsumes the American novel are implicitly contradicted by Édouard Glissant's study of `le roman des Amériques' in Le Discours antillais(1981). In Les Testaments trahis (1993), although Kundera relativizes the European novel with reference to the `novel of the South' (exemplified by Chamoiseau and Rushdie), his view of the latter still shows no awareness of Glissant's connection of a poetics of Caribbean and Alter-American `self-recovery' with a perspective on world-wide cultural diversity and relationality. If Kundera's theorization of the (globalized) European novel is vitiated by its ignorance of the critical ground covered by Caribbean thinkers, equally the manifesto in favour of `une littérature-monde' –surprisingly signed by Glissant (Le Monde, 2007) – also distorts the complex interconnections of European and non-European writing. These connection failures illustrate both a short-circuit in the (supposedly) global transmission of critical thought, and an inadequate understanding of the notion of the `world' when conjugated with the term `literature'.
Mary Gallagher is associate professor of French and francophone literatures at University College, Dublin. In addition to a number of published essays, she is the author of La créolité de Saint-John Perse (1998), Soundings in French Caribbean Writing since 1950: The Shockof Space and Time (2002), and World Writing: Poetics, Ethics, Globalization (2008). She is currently working on a book about the Creole connection in the work of the Greco-Anglo-Irish author Lafcadio Hearn.
At first sight Japan would appear to be what might be called “degree zero of `creolity' ”. By geographical chance but also as a result of the vicissitudes of its history—Japan was closed to almost all foreign penetration from the 17th to the 19th century— the particular laws that presided in its cultural and economic development seem to radically distance Japanese society from any permeability to the problematics raised by creolity. However, the word “creole” is nowadays called upon to support the most current questions of Japanese society. In what way can the Japanese situation be called “creole”? Although Japan is an eccentric case and in many respects displaced in the unstable network of creole studies, that does not make it less revealing of new issues of thought that are being constituted around the figure of the creole at the very places where they were not expected.
Michaël F. Ferrier is a professor at Chuo University, Tokyo, and director of the research group Figures de l'étranger. He is the author of several texts on Japan, including Japon: La barrière des rencontres (2009) and Maurice Pinguet: Le texte Japon (2009), and of the novels Tokyo: Petits portraits de l'aube (2004) and Sympathie pour le fantôme (2010).
As part of the larger project of assessing the relationship between the Francophone Caribbean and the contemporary world, this article addresses how Francophone Caribbean film is presently impacting the field on a local, regional and international level. This article first examines in detail the development of cultural initiatives in Martinique, Guadeloupe and Haiti, followed by recent regional and international events featuring Francophone Caribbean films. The last section of this paper considers three individual filmmakers who have had a verifiable impact on film culture, demonstrating the presence of French Caribbean cinema in the broader context.
Meredith N. Robinson completed her PhD in French literature at the University of Texas, Austin, in May 2010. Her dissertation traces the development of cinema in Haiti, Guadeloupe, and Martinique and offers a critical analysis of a number of recent films shot in these islands. She is the author of a book chapter in Rethinking Third Cinema: The Role of Anti-colonial Media and Aesthetics in Postmodernity (2009).
The Littérature-monde manifesto, published in 2007, seems to announce a new era for writing in French from non-metropolitan regions. It moreover suggests that this moment marks a “Copernican revolution” in the literary history of France and the French-speaking world. This article considers the case of Haitian literature of the 19th and 20th centuries, and suggests that this, one of the oldest Francophone literary traditions, can be thought of as a precursor to “littérature-monde.” Focusing on questions of language, style, and relationships with the metropole, the paper situates Haitian literature vis à vis Littérature-monde, and argues that Haitian writing has long turned around the preoccupations and issues set out in the manifesto.
Martin Munro is professor of French and francophone studies at Florida State University, Tallahassee. He is the author of, most recently, Different Drummers: Rhythm and Race in the Americas (2010), and editor of Edwidge Danticat: A Reader's Guide (2010) and Haiti Rising: Haitian History, Culture, and the Earthquake of 2010 (2010).
Renowned Guadeloupean writer Maryse Condé has been a practitioner oflittérature-monde for decades. Despite her seminal role in French Caribbean literature she has never limited the subject of her writings, nor her physical inhabitation, to a single confined space. Her extensive literaryoeuvre spans time periods, countries and genres and she consistently situates herself as a global citizen rather than a “Caribbean” or “francophone” writer. The seeds of this nomadic approach are sown in childhood, evident in her autobiographical narratives Le Coeur à rire et à pleurer (1999) and Victoire les saveurs et les mots (2006), in which Condé reflects on her Guadeloupean roots and her relationship to the wider world. By contrast, her 1997 novel Desirada marks a turning point in Condé's writing, becoming more self-consciously global in outlook and further extending her literary borders. Through an examination of these three books, this paper will explore Condé's personal and literary trajectory as a practitioner of littérature-monde.
Bonnie Thomas is an associate professor in French studies at the University of Western Australia. She is the author of Breadfruit or Chestnut: Gender Construction in the French Caribbean Novel (2006) and is currently working on a monograph on memory and French Caribbean autobiography. She has published numerous articles on contemporary French Caribbean literature and also publishes in the area of teaching and learning.
Directly engaging the recent manifesto and essay collection calling for a world literature in French, this article considers the creolized, hybrid forms of geopolitical and discursive belonging of the Francophone Caribbean participants as a useful starting point for such a project. Hailing from across the Caribbean region (Guadeloupe, Martinique, Haiti) but now living and working in western metropolitan centers (New York, Montreal, Paris), Maryse Condé, Edouard Glissant, Danny Laferrière, Lyonel Trouillot and Gary Victor all straddle and travel the “spaces” of contact between margins and centers, mediating the continual flow of movement in between and among cultures of the world.
Keithley Woolward is assistant professor of French and francophone studies at the College of the Bahamas, Nassau. His teaching and research expertise includes the literatures and cultures of France, francophone Africa, and the Caribbean, and comparative African/Caribbean diaspora studies. He is currently completing a book that focuses on the ways in which theater influenced Frantz Fanon's theories, from Black Skin, White Masks to The Wretched of the Earth.
In this essay I explore the generic limitations of the “Pour une littérature-monde en français” manifesto. Looking at certain of the document's structural and thematic stumbling blocks, I examine the essential dilemmas that reside at the heart of all postcolonial literary production and consider alternative responses to the issues of belonging and cultural identity evoked in the manifesto. I note in particular the absence of Haitian Spiralist writers Frankétienne and Jean-Claude Fignolé from the list of signatories, arguing that the non-inclusion of these authors strikingly exemplifies the troublesome contradictions and lacunae present throughout “Pour une littérature-monde en français.” In reflecting on the contextual paradoxes and ironies that mark the manifesto, I draw attention to the need for greater critical vigilance with respect to the manifold political, geographical, and linguistic borders of postcolonial literature.
Kaiama L. Glover is an assistant professor in the Department of French and in the Africana Studies Program at Barnard College, New York. She has lectured and published widely in the fields of francophone literature and postcolonial studies. Recent essays appear in the Journal of Postcolonial Writings and the Journal of Haitian Studies, and articles on Haitian novelist Jean-Claude Fignolé are forthcoming in the French Review and Research in African Literatures. Her book Haiti Unbound: A Spiralist Challenge to the Postcolonial Canon (2010) addresses the general issue of canon formation in the French-speaking Caribbean and the particular fate of the Haitian Spiralist authors vis-à-vis this canon.
To someone who studies the Caribbean, a striking feature of the 2007Littérature-monde manifesto is its deep debt to the thought of one of its most prestigious signatories: Edouard Glissant. The very title of the manifesto hints at this influence, through its use of the hyphenated “littérature-monde” formulation, which echoes many of Glissant's coinages. Given the close parentage between Glissant's thought and theLittérature-monde project, it seems appropriate to ask how Glissant's writing helps to understand the project and to what extent it can help to achieve the program sketched out there. In particular, I focus attention on potential weaknesses in these two overlapping theories of world literature. For although both of the projects are undeniably well intentioned, the self-serving aspects of the Littérature-monde manifesto, and the utopian dimension of Glissant's thinking, seem to call for vigilance.
Eric Prieto is associate professor of French and comparative literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of Listening In: Music, Mind, and the ModernistNarrative (2002) and a number of articles on Caribbean and postcolonial literature. He is currently finishing a book titled "The Postmodern Poetics of Place in French and Francophone Literature."
The article explores Edouard Glissant's literary, intellectual and political activity over the past decade in the light of Edward W. Said's concept of `late style'. There is no intention to present the Martiniquan writer and intellectual as an exemplum of Said's categorization. Instead, the aim is to suggest that a dichotimized understanding of `lateness', holding in tension extremes of harmony and intransigence, resolution and contradiction, may provide a useful means of exploring the ambiguities of Glissant's widely proliferating and increasingly public activity in the eighth, and now ninth, decade of his life. The article analyses contributions to manifestos, reports, open letters and other public documents relating to topics such as slavery, colonial memory, ecology and the relationship of France to the Antillean DOM-ROMs. Attenuating Chris Bongie's association of Glissant with a `scribal politics' of postcolonialism, it suggests that the Martiniquan author illustrates the uneasy yet ultimately productive relationship between politics and poetics that may be seen to be particularly characteristic of the Francophone Caribbean.
Charles Forsdick is James Barrow Professor of French at the University of Liverpool. He is author of Victor Segalen and the Aesthetics of Diversity (2000) and Travel in Twentieth-Century French and Francophone Cultures (2005), and coeditor of Francophone Postcolonial Studies: A Critical Introduction (2003) and Francophone Thought in the Postcolonial World (2009). He is a Fellow of the Centre for the Study of International Slavery and is currently completing a study of representations of Toussaint Louverture.
Leah Gordon, whose work also appears on the cover of this issue, is a photographer, film-maker, and curator who teaches fact-based film at the University for Creative Arts, Surrey. In the 1980s she was lyricist and singer for a London-based punk folk band. She has made a number of films about Haiti, including A Pig's Tale, for Channel 4, and Atis-Rezistans: The Sculptors of Grand Rue. She is the creator and cocurator of the Ghetto Biennale, which was held in Port-au-Prince in December 2009.
Pascale Monnin was born in Port-au-Prince in 1974. A multidimensional artist, she draws, paints, etches, and sculpts, and also works with installations. Her art has been exhibited in numerous places around the world, including Berlin, Oslo, Port-au-Prince, New York, Washington DC, and Nouméa.
Barbara Prézeau-Stephenson is a Haitian artist and art historian. Born in 1965 in Port-au-Prince, she grew up in an artistic family. She has participated in exhibitions in Montreal, Paris, Seville, San Diego, Brussels, Chicago, San Francisco, Quito, Ottawa, and New York. She is cofounder and current chair of the Fondation AfricAmericA and has recently completed an MA in management of cultural organizations at Université de Paris-Dauphine, with a dissertation titled "The Contribution of Cultural Production in the Economic Development of Haiti."
This essay critically engages aspects of Susan Buck-Morss' much acclaimed Hegel, Haiti and Universal History. While appreciating Buck-Morss' scepticism of Europe's presumption of authoritative self-knowledge, the essay raises two principal doubts: the first concerns whether indeed something significant about Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit stands or falls on his knowledge of the Haitian Revolution; and the second concerns her curious reading of C.L.R. James' The Black Jacobins, as mainly “information,” rather than itself an attempt to theorize the Haitian Revolution as universal history.
David Scott teaches at Columbia University, where he is professor of anthropology.
Can we coherently conjugate high philosophy and slave insurgency under the heading of “universal history”? Is it possible to disentangle “universal history” from its roots in white supremacy and European imperial reason? Susan Buck-Morss' recent answer to that question, which was left somewhat unresolved in her seminal essay “Hegel and Haiti,” turns the Haitian Revolution and its half suppressed echo in Hegel's master-slave dialectic into an emblematic event. Universal ideas of liberty and liberation can only be glimpsed in singular moments of rupture, systemic break-down, and violence. The slave insurgency in Saint Domingue thus becomes a privileged moment in universal history. While I find Buck-Morss' reading of Hegel's master-slave dialectic in light of the Haitian Revolution more persuasive than many other recent attempts at thinking universality in relation to slave insurgency, I am troubled by the fact that Buck-Morss' anti-multiculturalist notion of universality is predicated on an epistemology of catastrophe and the violent stripping of the individual of cultural and social ties. If there is anything we can learn from the Western history of catastrophes, from Atlantic slavery to the Holocaust, it is that the nakedness and vulnerability of the victim is more likely to lead to fantastical cruelty than to the promotion of liberationist thought.
Sibylle Fischer is associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese, comparative literature, and Africana studies at New York University. She is the author of Modernity Disavowed: Haiti and the Cultures of Slavery in the Age of Revolution (2004), which received the 2005 Frantz Fanon Award of the Caribbean Philosophical Association, the 2006 Katherine Singer Kovacs Award of the Modern Language Association, and the 2006 Bryce Wood Award of the Latin American Studies Association. She is also the editor of Cirilo Villaverde's Cecilia Valdes, or El Angel Hill (2005). The essay published here is part of a new project on the politics and ethics of representations of violence in the Caribbean.
Responding to commentaries on Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History by Sibylle Fischer and David Scott, this essay describes universal history as “theoretical pragmatics,” a practice of theorizing that undermines established narratives. Focusing on the singularity of historical events, it provides a decentered genealogy of contemporary globalization. It questions cultural identity as an adequate political orientation, given the non-identity of individuals with any particular culture, and given the de facto power of the sovereign to determine ultimately and at times violently, who “belongs” to the cultural collective and who does not. Universal history opposes efforts at historical enclosure made by any particular nation, culture, or civilization, and calls instead for a communist mode of inheriting the past.
Susan Buck-Morss is Jan Rock Zubrow '77 Professor of Government, Cornell University, Ithaca. She is a member of the graduate fields of comparative literature, German studies, and the history of art and visual studies, and teaches in the School of Art, Architecture, and Planning. Her books include Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History (2009), Thinking Past Terror: Islamism and Critical Theory on the Left (2003), Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West (2000), The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (1989), and The Origin of Negative Dialectics: Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin, and the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School (1977).