Archéologie de la sexualité: Reconisation du corps de la femme noire dans les discours antillais

Couti, Jacqueline, Department of French, University of Virginia
Arnold, A. James, Department of French, University of Virginia

My dissertation explores how, from the nineteenth-century to the present, male Caribbean writers employ sexuality in a nationalistic context. While drawing on material from Guadeloupe, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, I concentrate on Martinique and on the créoliste writers Raphaël Confiant’s and Patrick Chamoiseau’s Rabelaisian construction of sexuality. Informed by postcolonial, gender and sexuality theory, I contend that these authors employ debasing descriptions of the female body that subvert French sexual stereotypes of Caribbean women. Rooted in discourse analysis, my interdisciplinary research is a foucaldian archeology that examines the use of metaphor and the relationship between power and the body. As well, my project engages with the growing scholarly awareness of the need to redefine the cultural map of the Americas.
My first chapter, “Les métamorphoses de l’éros,” examines representations of the female body and its color in Cuban and Puerto Rican literature from 1823 to 1976 in order to explore the complex set of power relationships between ethnoclasses in those countries. This close reading of Cuban and Puerto Rican literature provides what Martinican writer Edouard Glissant terms “a diversion,” and establishes a comparative approach for the work.
My second chapter, “La femme-kaléidoscope: représentation nationale du corps féminin dans tous ses états,” examines sexual metaphors in French West-Indian literature of the same period to show that the nationalist use of the female body, though intermittent, can be traced to the early nineteenth century.
My third chapter, “Koupé sé pa jé: sexualité et expression d’une vision culturaliste de la nation,” points out that the sexualized language constructed by Confiant and Chamoiseau is a masculinist way to promote culture and national identity.
The fourth chapter, “La féminité bi-face: le corps (sexe et ventre) comme lieu de conquête, de reconquête et de résistance,” demonstrates how the créolistes’ discourse contrasts bodily representations of the loose woman with those of the mother to produce ambiguous ideas concerning nation-building and the rejection of Frenchification.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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