Childhood, Autobiography and the Francophone Caribbean

Childhood, Autobiography and the Francophone Caribbean

Volume: 24
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Childhood, Autobiography and the Francophone Caribbean
    Book Description:

    This book examines a major modern turn in Francophone Caribbean literature towards the récit d'enfance, or childhood memoir, and asks why this occurred post-1990, connecting texts to recent changes in public policy and education policy concerning the commemoration of slavery and colonialism both in France and at a global level (for example, the UNESCO project 'La Route de l'esclave', the 'loi Taubira' and the 'Comité pour la mémoire de l'esclavage'). Combining approaches from Postcolonial Theory, Psychoanalysis, Trauma Theory and Gender Studies, and positing recognition as a central concept of postcolonial literature, it draws attention to a neglected body of récits d'enfance by contemporary bestselling, prize-winning Francophone Caribbean authors Patrick Chamoiseau, Maryse Condé, Gisèle Pineau, Daniel Maximin, Raphaël Confiant and Dany Laferrière, while also offering new readings of texts by Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Edouard Glissant, Joseph Zobel, Françoise Ega, Michèle Lacrosil, Maurice Virassamy and Mayotte Capécia. The study proposes an innovative methodological paradigm with which to read postcolonial childhoods in a comparative framework from areas as diverse as the Caribbean, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and particularly the Haitian diaspora in North America.

    eISBN: 978-1-78138-047-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. Introduction: Childhood, Genre and the Scene of Recognition
    (pp. 1-23)

    Representations of childhood are anything but simple. Childhood may be, on the one hand, a democratic trope which derives its appeal from the fact that it is a stage common to all humankind, or it may serve to emphasize the intense alienation and isolation of individual experience. Writing about childhood can function as an initiation into an unknown society, the child’s learning curve correlating with that of the reader. Alternatively, it may be an act of consolidation, as readers – particularly those who are familiar with the context being described – identify recognizable experiences. While childhood often evokes nostalgia and...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Emergence of a Tradition
    (pp. 24-54)

    The post-1990 revival of therécit d’enfancegave rise to new critical discussions of the genre’s significance in contemporary Francophone Caribbean literature. Of equal importance, however, is the fact that these modern texts build on a number of earlier works in which childhood occupies a fundamental role. These earlier texts have known varied fates: a few are relatively well known, several are often alluded to but rarely analysed in detail, whereas others have completely slipped from critical attention. This chapter establishes a clear chronology of therécit d’enfancealongside a discussion of literary engagement with the theme of childhood more...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Apples and Mimic Men: Patrick Chamoiseau’s Une Enfance créole
    (pp. 55-82)

    In 1990 Patrick Chamoiseau publishedAntan d’enfance, catalysing the contemporary Antillean turn towardsrécits d’enfance. A sequel,Chemind’école(1994), quickly followed, and the pair of texts were subsequently republished and repackaged asUne enfance créole, a strategy which drew attention to the intentional narrative continuities between them. Some eleven years laterUne Enfance créolewas established as a trilogy with the publication ofA Bout d’enfance(2005). All three titles appear in Gallimard’s ‘Haute enfance’ series. Exploring his personal development from the earliest stage of infancy through the perils of schooling under the French education system to the throes of...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Poetics of Ethnicity in Raphaël Confiant’s Ravines du devant-jour and Le Cahier de romances
    (pp. 83-107)

    In the Francophone Caribbean, the process ofmétissagebegan in 1635, when Pierre Belain d’Esnambuc first established a French settlement in Martinique. Initially, the French colonizers concluded peace treaties with Pilote, a Carib chief who took an active role in supporting and extending the French reign over the island,¹ and as a publication by the priest and early colonial chronicler Jean-Baptiste du Tertre shows, Martinique became divided into two roughly equal parts between the ‘demeure des François’ [sic] who settled along the Caribbean coast, and the ‘demeure des sauvages’ who took refuge in the hilly interior and along the more...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Alienation and Estrangement in Maryse Condé’s Le Cœur à rire et à pleurer
    (pp. 108-131)

    From the publication of her first novelHérémakhononin 1976,¹ critics have sought to establish autobiographical ties between Maryse Condé’s life and her fictional works.² Attempts to draw the Guadeloupean author to comment on such ties recur throughout her substantial body of published interviews, and Françoise Pfaff’s opening question inEntretiens avec Maryse Condéhomes in on childhood: ‘Vue de façon positive et négative, l’enfance est un thème important dans tes œuvres. Est-ce que tu peux nous parler de ton enfance en Guadeloupe?’ At this, Condé protests that her childhood ‘n’était pas intéressant du tout’.³ Nonetheless, in 1999, over two...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Childhood, the Environment and Diaspora: Daniel Maximin’s Tu, c’est l’enfance and Gisèle Pineau’s L’Exil selon Julia
    (pp. 132-157)

    In theirrécits d’enfance, the Guadeloupean authors Daniel Maximin and Gisèle Pineau explore the child’s connection to the Antillean environment. Their approaches, however, are markedly different and comparison of their texts reveals significant contrasts in the child narrators’ experiences of place and space. While Maximin recalls his childhood in Guadeloupe, Pineau describes a childhood largely spent in metropolitan France. Nonetheless, for both authors the child’s bond with the environment articulates a politics of landscape, through which history, memory, exile and diaspora come to the fore. Maximin’sTu, c’est l’enfance(2004) is structured around the physical exploration of Guadeloupean space and...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Thwarted Expectations? Stasis and Change in Haiti in Dany Laferrière’s L’Odeur du café and Le Charme des après-midi sans fin
    (pp. 158-180)

    Close studies ofrécits d’enfanceby authors from Martinique and Guadeloupe have identified similar sites of literary tension: the French–Creole diglossia, the ethnoclass hierarchy with its interrelated socio-economic stratifications, and the negotiation of the colonial past and slave history. Tworécits d’enfanceby Haitian author Dany Laferrière,L’Odeur du café(1991) and its sequel,Le Charme des après-midi sans fin(1997), display pronounced differences in their approach to childhood. The integration of a Haitian writer into this study requires rigorous contextual analysis, and this chapter will outline important stages in Haitian history as well as considering Laferrière’s position as...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Parental Paradigms and Gender Stereotypes
    (pp. 181-202)

    The child’s world view is shaped by their relationship with their parents or guardians. The roles played by mothers, grandmothers and fathers in the scene of recognition have already come under scrutiny, and this chapter now revisits those scenes, paying greater attention to gender. To do so requires a discussion of gender stereotypes which are prevalent throughout the Caribbean, such as the absent father and the practice of ‘othermothering’, and of stereotypes which have developed in a specifically Francophone Caribbean context, such as thefemme matadorandpoteau-mitan. By focusing on parents and guardians, it is possible to observe how...

  12. Afterword
    (pp. 203-207)

    Childhood is a time of beginnings and discoveries, and accordinglyrécits d’enfanceplay a foundational and initiatory role in Francophone Caribbean literature. Close focus on a series of texts has revealed the dynamics at play in each narrative, and identified how every author’s distinct style emerges, as well as uncovering thematic connections which illustrate the significance of therécits d’enfancefor an individual author’s wider œuvre. These authors were writing at different times, under different conditions, and originate from Martinique, Guadeloupe, Haiti and French Guiana. They also represent the experience of diaspora and Antillean immigration to France and North America....

  13. Notes
    (pp. 208-229)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 230-242)
  15. Index
    (pp. 243-248)