Origine spatio-temporelle et definitions identitaires dans la litterature caribeenne francophone contemporaine: de l'ancrage dans l'espace-temps du pays natal au détachement

Choquet, Isabelle, Department of French, University of Virginia
Berard, Stephanie, Department of French, University of Virginia

My dissertation provides a comparative study of the literary representation of origin by authors coming from Martinique, Guadeloupe and Haiti. I argue that in the 20th century, Francophone Caribbean literature moves from an obsessive will to anchor one's self-definition in the time and space of the native island to a detachment from the natal land. Relying on narratology, discourse analysis, and postcolonial and transnational studies, I show that writers from Guadeloupe and Haiti living in North America do focus on origin, but with the exact opposite agenda to traditional Francophone Caribbean littérature engage (literature committed to a political cause): these so-called ―migrant authors dismiss an identity imposed and limited by geographical and social origins. They re-imagine the possibilities of belonging through new relationships with others, and with time and place, and conceive of identity without identification with a territory and a genealogy.

Chapter I focuses on Martinican authors (Césaire, Confiant, Chamoiseau and Glissant), who enhance a fantasized ancestor characterized by his resistance to slavery. They thus seek to establish a collective genealogy to be proud of and to anchor the history of their society in the island.

My second chapter ponders the large number of childhood narratives written in the Caribbean context, and investigates this concern for origin and self-images. Considering both narratology and the representation of home and transmission, I contrast the perspectives of two writers from Martinique—Confiant and Chamoiseau—and two writers originally from Haiti but who migrated to North America—Laferrière and Ollivier.

Chapter three points to the negative depiction of childhood and motherhood given by female writers: the Guadeloupean Condé, and the Haitians Danticat and Agnant—all living outside their native island—deconstruct the discourses on collective origin and identity established by the authors examined in the first chapter. Their female characters detach their self-definition from their native country, genealogy and historiography.

The last chapter bridges the works of Laferrière and Condé through a study combining narratology and discourse analysis. I show that these writers‘ refusal to be defined by their geographical and social origin is reflected in their blurring of the enunciative source in their novels.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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