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Listening to Caribbean history: music and rhythm in Daniel Maximin's L'Isol soleil

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This article deals with the relationship between music, rhythm and black Caribbean history and identity. It begins by considering briefly some of the ways that sounds, including music and rhythm, shaped and defined the experience of slavery, and then argues that despite the importance of rhythm to this experience and to subsequent Caribbean cultural history, most critics and scholars have tended to neglect or ignore rhythm in their work. Drawing evidence from Daniel Maximin's novel L'Isol soleil (1981), the article argues that the grand historical sweep of Maximin's novel, and the recurrence of rhythm and music in the text at many key stages of Guadeloupean, Caribbean and broader black diasporic history seems to suggest an intimate bond between rhythm, music and Caribbean identity, a bond that Maximin implies has been continually strengthened, even as it has mutated, from the slavery period to the present. The article also considers some of the ways in which Maximin's work relates to that of douard Glissant, notably in terms of narrative structures, and in the authors' conceptions of history, memory and music. Finally, I suggest that Maximin's novel prefigures the current interest among historians of understanding the past through considering its auditory aspects.
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Keywords: Caribbean; Glissant; Jazz; Maximin; history; memory; music; rhythm; slavery

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of the West Indies.

Publication date: 2007-11-15

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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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