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From roots to routes: double consciousness in the Francophone Caribbean novel

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A comparative treatment of two twentieth-century Francophone Caribbean novelists, Jacques-Stephen Alexis of Haiti and Simone Schwarz-Bart of Guadeloupe, demonstrates how Caribbean authors have been using the discourse of the marvellous to move toward the creation of a sense of identity based on what Paul Gilroy calls a process of movement and mediation as opposed to a search for roots and rootedness. Alexis felt torn between what he perceived as his intellectual debt to Europe and his dedication to the development of a national Haitian literary form. His desire to transcend European literary influences is expressed in his work through issues of authenticity. Schwarz-Bart's work reflects more recent theories of Caribbean identity by demythologizing the very concept of the authentic origin. She uses the narrative technique of magic realism as a way of bringing together opposing discursive systems without evaluating them according to criteria of truth or authenticity. The result is a multiple voice which, like the larger voice of the Black Atlantic as a whole, can be described as a form of antiphony in which, in Gilroy's words, the original call is becoming harder to locate.

Keywords: Caribbean identity; Jacques-Stphen Alexis; Simone Schwarz-Bart; authenticity; double consciousness; magic realism; postmodernism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Eastern Washington University.

Publication date: August 1, 2005

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  • The International Journal of Francophone Studies offers a critical preview for a new development in the understanding of 'France outside France', with a thorough insight into the network of disciplinary issues affiliated with this study. The journal complements the thriving area of scholarly interest in the French-speaking regions of the world, bringing a location of linguistic, cultural, historical and social dynamics within a single academic arena.
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