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Postcolonial Subjects: Francophone Women Writers

Copyright Date: 1996
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Postcolonial Subjects
    Book Description:

    This groundbreaking volume highlights the work of contemporary women writing in French whose cultural links, ethnic identities, and historical roots lie outside France. The writings of these women emanate from the cultures of Africa and the Indian Ocean, the Middle East, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and Quebec and other French-speaking regions of Canada. Contributors: Eloise A. Brière, Miriam Cooke, Irène Assiba d’Almeida, Joan Dayan, John D. Erickson, Françoise Lionnet, Christiane Makward, Kitzie McKinney, Christopher L. Miller, Mary-Kay Miller, Jane Moss, Elisabeth Mudimbe-Boyi, Lori Saint-Martin, Ronnie Scharfman.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8659-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction: Women Writing beyond the Hexagon
    (pp. ix-xxii)

    Postcolonial Subjectsis a collective project centered on questions of language, identity, and voice as they engage issues of gender, race, ethnicity, culture, and nation. The critical essays presented here focus on the literary contributions of contemporary women writing in French whose cultural ties, ethnic identities, and historical roots lie beyond the Hexagon, beyond the six-sided map of France.¹ Their writings emanate from the cultures of Africa and the Indian Ocean, the Middle East, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and Quebec and other French-speaking regions of Canada. In their use of French as a language of literary expression, the women writers...

  4. Part I. Situating the Self:: History, Rememory, Story

    • CHAPTER ONE. Antonine Maillet and the Construction of Acadian Identity
      (pp. 3-21)

      Although North American historical and literary discourse has spoken about Acadians, only in this century have Acadians begun to speak about themselves, in their mother tongue. The silencing of Acadians is a project that began with the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. With its signing, Acadie became Nova Scotia, ushering in attempts to eradicate the French presence in the colony. French-speaking Acadians would be assimilated by the British colonizer; failing that, they would be deported. The novels of Antonine Maillet are part of a project by the French of North America to construct a language-based identity that defines their New...

    • CHAPTER TWO. Memory, Voice, and Metaphor in the Works of Simone Schwarz-Bart
      (pp. 22-41)

      Among the narrative genres represented in the literary works of Guadeloupean writer Simone Schwarz-Bart, those most closely associated with Caribbean, African, and European oral traditions play a privileged role. Proverb and song, folktale, story and fable, initiation story, and epic provide a way of structuring and translating literally and figuratively the particular cultural realities about which the author writes, as she creates her own narrative métissage of Creole and French, oral and written sources, sound and image, history and myth.¹ Varied in nature, eluding categorization by conventional genre, her texts focus on the experience of black protagonists marginalized and silenced...

    • CHAPTER THREE. Erzulie: A Women’s History of Haiti?
      (pp. 42-60)

      Gods born out of blood. Scars that do not die, making visible again and again, whenever they visit their faithful, those times that might be forgotten. Phantoms stored in the minds of a people, residues of the past, lands fat with the blood of memory. As Toni Morrison writes inBeloved,“If it is still there, WAITING, that must mean that Nothing ever dies.”¹ There are some things we know that are better dead. But that is not part of this history.

      That is not part of the lessons these gods teach, and these gods do not die.

      If it...

    • CHAPTER FOUR. The Past Our Mother: Marie-Claire Blais and the Question of Women in the Quebec Canon
      (pp. 61-78)

      In 1975, at an international colloquium on women and writing, the Quebec feminist writer Nicole Brossard gave voice to a question central to the understanding of women writers in Quebec: “il faudra bien s’expliquer une bonne fois comment il se fait que les femmes aient joué un rôle si important dans notre littérature: Gabrielle Roy, Anne Hébert, Germaine Guèvremont, Marie-Claire Blais. Comment il se fait surtout que leurs oeuvres aient su toucher une vaste partie du public québécois? Sur quelle schizophrénie collective leurs fantasmes ont-ils eu prise? Sur quelle oppression ont-ils fait le jour?” (“How is it that women have...

    • CHAPTER FIVE. Family Histories: Marie Laberge and Women’s Theater in Quebec
      (pp. 79-97)

      From the late 1970s through the early 1990s, the plays of Marie Laberge have dramatized the changing role of the family in Quebec society. From domestic melodramas depicting the failure of the traditional Quebec family to cathartic plays that suggest the possibility of redefining the family, Laberge’s theater has reflected the feminist critique of gender roles within patriarchal institutions. Just as the nationalist politics of the independence movement inspired thenouveau théâtre québécoisbeginning in the late 1960s, so the sexual politics of the feminist movement gave rise to a distinctive Quebecthéâtre de femmesin the mid-1970s.¹ Feminist activists...

    • CHAPTER SIX. Aminata Sow Fall’s L’Ex-père de la nation: Subversive Subtexts and the Return of the Maternal
      (pp. 98-112)

      When Aminata Sow Fall wroteLe Revenantin 1976, she simultaneously wrote herself into history, for her novel would be the first published in French by a West African woman.¹ Because of her unique position, the circumstances of her writing command almost as much attention as the writing itself. As a Senegalese woman, Sow Fall finds herself doubly marginalized: first, as a West African author writing against the backdrop of French literary tradition, and second, as a woman writing within the predominantly male Senegalese literary tradition. From these margins, Sow Fall rereads and rewrites boundaries drawn between male and female,...

  5. Part II. Border Crossings

    • CHAPTER SEVEN. Cherchez la Franco-femme
      (pp. 115-123)

      Among the three Ranavalonas, they had a sixty-two year reign. Did you know that? Like so many other extraordinary women and events, they slipped through the net of history, at least the history that is taught, rethought, reconstructed according to recent developments in the state of knowledge and the disciplines. The history of women is slowly emerging from the obscurity to which the “natural” blinders of men have traditionally relegated them. Strange blind spots in vision that make of the majority of our male companions voyeuristic lovers, myopic grandfathers, nearsighted friends, and the great non-seers of women’s history. In the...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT. Narrative “je(ux)” in Kamouraska by Anne Hébert and Juletane by Myriam Warner-Vieyra
      (pp. 124-139)

      Elisabeth d’Aulnières inKamouraskaand Juletane inJuletanetell their stories, which are so different and yet so similar. What could a French-Canadian heroine from the nineteenth century of a Catholic bourgeois milieu have in common with a French Caribbean heroine of the twentieth century who followed her husband to Africa to find herself involved in a polygamous marriage? Between Elisabeth and Juletane an intertextual play seems to point out a similarity of women’s condition beyond culture and geography. Despite the cultural, religious, chronological, and geographical distance, the referentialhors-texteof both novels is shaped by the social matrix of...

    • CHAPTER NINE. Mothers, Rebels, and Textual Exchanges: Women Writing in French and Arabic
      (pp. 140-156)

      Seven years after their democratic revolution, the French invaded Egypt, the heart of the Arab world. They had come to share—and, en passant, to enhance—the glories of their civilization. Riding high on a self-congratulatory wave, they quickly moved on out of Egypt to the west and to the north. They seized as strongholds for theirmission civilisatricethe Islamic Berber majoritarian Algeria and the multiconfessional and multicommunal Syria and Lebanon. Armed with high-sounding slogans, they proceeded to crush the Arabs’ liberty, fraternity, and equality.

      Unlike their British counterparts, who replaced them in Egypt and who later established hegemony...

    • CHAPTER TEN. “Nouvelle ècriture” from the Ivory Coast: A Reading of Véronique Tadjo’s A vol d’oiseau
      (pp. 157-172)

      Véronique Tadjo is a relatively new and radically different voice in African literature written in French. This literature was dominated by male writers until Mariama Bâ from Senegal, author ofUne si longue lettre (So Long a Letter)(1979) gave African women writers in French international recognition. Tadjo differs from the best-known first generation of African women writers and from most of her contemporaries, such as Mariama Bâ, Aoua Kéita, Aminata Sow Fall, Aminata Maïga Ka, Catherine N’Diaye, Nafissatou Diallo, Werewere Liking, and Ken Bugul. What sets her prose and poetry apart is the way in which her work signals...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN. After Negation: Africa in Two Novels by Maryse Condé
      (pp. 173-185)

      I would like to begin with a paradox. In Maryse Condé’s first novel,Hérémakhonon,Africa appears as a metaphysical trap, the object of a quest that turns out to be “vain.”¹ The search for meaning, genealogy, and cultural identity that brought Véronica, the Guadeloupean narrator, to Africa proves futile, and an unbridgeable gap seems to open between her and the land of her ancestors: “Mes aïeux, je ne les ai pas trouvés. Trois siécles et demi m’en avaient séparéé” (242–43). (“I didn’t find my ancestors; three and a half centuries have separated me from them" [136].) By the end...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE. Rewriting “America”: Violence, Postmodernity, and Parody in the Fiction of Madeleine Monette, Nicole Brossard, and Monique LaRue
      (pp. 186-209)

      The image of “America” has been given increasing prominence in Quebec fiction since 1960. Whether viewed with interest, apprehension, or outright contempt, the influence of American culture and ideology on the imaginative terrain of contemporary Quebec letters has been substantial, engendering a seemingly endless variety of images, themes, and narrative forms that idealize, disparage, and sometimes parody the power and cultural hegemony of the United States in North America.¹

      Historically speaking, American characters, cities, and modes of thinking have often been negatively portrayed in the Quebec novel. For many nineteenth-and early twentieth-century authors of Quebec’s popularromans du terroir(novels...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN. Blurring the Lines in Vietnamese Fiction in French: Kim Lefevre’s Métisse blanche
      (pp. 210-226)

      Although by their numbers men have dominated Vietnamese francophone literature since its beginnings in the early 1920s, women writers have made important contributions to this corpus and have been producing texts since the appearance of collaborations by Trinh Thuc Oanh and Marguerite Triaire in the late 1930s and early 1940s.¹ Moreover, from the outset women characters have played important roles in narratives written by men.² In the late 1960s, however, both women’s and men’s voices fell silent, an event I noted with some pessimism in the mid-1980s.³ But in recent years a new group of Vietnamese francophone writers has emerged,...

  6. Part III. Engendering the Postcolonial Subject

    • CHAPTER FOURTEEN. Theorizing Terror: The Discourse of Violence in Marie Chauvet’s Amour Colère Folie
      (pp. 229-245)

      Under the regime of the Duvaliers and their Tontons Macoutes, what does it mean to speak of violence, as Marie Chauvet does in her 1968 trilogy,Amour Colére Folie?In a universe where all are susceptible to arrest, rape, torture, disappearance, even murder at any moment and for any reason, where Kafka has become concrete and real, down to the last detail of daily life, is it possible to explore a violence that would be specifically discursive, and if so, what sense would such an exercise have, confronted by the horrors of the lived? As the beginning of a response...

    • CHAPTER FIFTEEN. Postscripts: Mariama Bâ, Epistolarity, Menopause, and Postcoloniality
      (pp. 246-264)

      The early phases of francophone literary culture are characterized by assertion of identity, the reinvention of language, the quest for selfhood, the unification of Blacks in the commonwealth of the French colonial experience, and the struggle for decolonization and nationhood. The emphasis on language is crucial, for the expropriation of the French language by the early francophone writers was a first step in the decolonization of the mind. The transformation of language is inseparable from social transformation and the reinvention of concepts of the European and the emancipated self. Decolonization, independence, and postcoloniality are redefinitions of nation, self, and what...

    • CHAPTER SIXTEEN. The Intertext: Werewere Liking’s Tool for Transformation and Renewal
      (pp. 265-284)

      Werewere Liking is a Cameroonian artiste in the full sense of the word: poet, playwright, singer, theater and movie actress, stage producer, novelist, essayist, painter, jeweler, and researcher. She stands out among African writers, male and female alike, not only for the profusion and diversity of her oeuvre but also because her mode of expression constitutes anouvelle écriture,a new way of writing. She is well aware of the peculiarity of her style: “Je n’ai pas une écriture conventionnelle. Elle est difficile à faire accepter parce qu’elle travaille sur elle-même en tant que forme d’art.” (I do not have...

    • CHAPTER SEVENTEEN. Writing (Jumping) Off the Edge of the World: Metafeminism and New Women Writers of Quebec
      (pp. 285-303)

      In Quebec, a few women writers, of whom the best known are Gabrielle Roy and Anne Hébert, have been critically acclaimed and widely studied by both men and women. Such experimental feminist writers as Nicole Brossard, France Théoret, Louky Bersianik, and Madeleine Gagnon have also been the subject of much critical work by women.¹ In fact, these powerful and well-established feminist writers, now in their forties and fifties, have been the focus of so much work by feminist critics that younger or less prolific women writers have not received all the attention they deserve. My aim is to read selected...

    • CHAPTER EIGHTEEN. Women’s Space and Enabling Dialogue in Assia Djebar’s L’Amour, la fantasia
      (pp. 304-320)

      Assia Djebar’s 1985 narrative,L’Amour, la fantasia,comprises three parts, titled respectively “The Capture of the City, or Love-letters,” “The Cries of theFantasia,”and “Voices from the Past.”¹ The titles of these parts suggest the main story: the clash of aggressor and aggressed during the colonial period from the fall of Algiers to the French in 1830 through the Algerian Revolution; and a concomitant story: the shrouding of voices in opposition (the French title of part 3 is “Les voix ensevelies”). The military-political struggle between French and Algerians allegorizes the struggle of Algerian women to inscribe themselves in a...

    • CHAPTER NINETEEN. “Logiques métisses”: Cultural Appropriation and Postcolonial Representations
      (pp. 321-344)

      Francophone women writers in Africa, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, as well aswithinFrance, to where they or their families immigrate for various personal or economic reasons, have given us unique insights into what Renato Rosaldo has called the “border zones” of culture.¹ In those areas on the periphery of stable metropolitan cultural discourses, Rosaldo explains, there is an incessant and playful heteroglossia, a bilingual speech or hybrid language that is a site of creative resistance to the dominant conceptual paradigms. In border zones, all of our academic preconceptions about cultural, linguistic, or stylistic norms are constantly being put...

  7. Contributors
    (pp. 345-350)
  8. Index
    (pp. 351-359)