Beyond the five senses: magical realisms in Haiti, Martinique, and Guadeloupe

Hopwood, Stephanie Nicole, Department of French Language and Literature, University of Virginia
Arnold, Albert, Department of French Language and Literatures, University of Virginia

This dissertation, entitled "Beyond the Five Senses: Magical Realisms in Haiti, Martinique, and Guadeloupe," examines the catalystic role of magical realist fiction in the representation of creole culture in three former French Caribbean colonies. I argue that the writers whose prose works I analyze employ a magical realist fiction for historical, cultural, and aesthetic purposes. Though their methods and styles differ, the commonality between these French Caribbean authors lies in their rewriting of national history to account for and to insist on a creole presence hitherto ignored by European historical methods. In turn, this incorporation and above all assertion of creole culture empowers the reality of each nation. The difference between these authors-and the reason for which I chose the plural "magical realisms" for the dissertation title--is the manner in which the writers rewrite their histories.

I have divided this study into five chapters, the first of which maps the evolution of the twentieth-century term "magical realism," from its pictorial origins to its present day global status within literature, film, and art. In this introductory chapter, I navigate among existing inconsistencies concerning the definition of magical realism and neighboring modes and genres. Once the terminological landscape is clarified, I turn to geographic-specific chapters that examine magical realist prose fiction in Haiti, Martinique, and Guadeloupe, respectively. With my concluding chapter, I elaborate the reasons for which each author writes in the magical realist mode and address the historical, cultural, and aesthetic connotations that arise from the representations of the mode.

Specialists and non-specialists of both Caribbean and magical realist fiction will find this study useful for several reasons: namely, I retool inaccuracies within existing definitions of magical realism; free the mode from the Latin American monopoly under which it had been for decades; and offer a Francophone perspective on both the aesthetics of magical realist fiction and the impetus for this fiction. By focusing on the plurality of expression within magical realism, I demonstrate how the representation of creole culture in the Francophone Caribbean has evolved in the second half of the twentieth century.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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