We have our next #FreeReadFriday coming up, so here is our Q&A with Celia Britton ahead of the day. Read on to find out what you can expect from Celia’s book, Language and Literary Form in French Caribbean Writing which will be available to download free for 24 hours on Friday 6th of November!
1) What prompted you to write this book?
Issues of the language and literary form of postcolonial literature have recently become a prominent area of research, after having been largely neglected. Since much of my work has always been in this area, I felt that the time had come to bring my ideas together and develop them further.
2) What is the main argument of the book?
The central argument is that attention to the language and formal features of these texts can provide insights into their themes and social context that would otherwise remain inaccessible. But it is interpreted in very varied ways: ‘language’, for example, ranges from analysing Condé’s sentence structures and Maximin’s use of pronouns, to discussing the role of Creole in the identity politics of Chamoiseau and Confiant, and Glissant’s promotion of what I call ‘multilingual surfing’ in the Tout-monde. Equally, the formal features cover both large-scale issues of genre (e.g., primitivism, exoticism, autobiography), and detailed analyses of intertextuality, narrative voice, etc.. In addition to strictly literary texts I also consider quasi-political writings about literature and, in Chapter 3, the commercial marketing of French Caribbean literature.
An important subsidiary argument is that orthodox postcolonial theory alone is not well-equipped to do this kind of study; theorists such as Benveniste, Bakhtin, Kristeva and Barthes, for example, offer ways of analysing the subject’s relation to language that can better illuminate the position of the postcolonial subject.
3) How does your approach differ from other research in this area?
In my use of poststructuralist and other theories to supplement postcolonial theory in my analysis of texts. But I also show that postcolonial texts reveal some of the limitations of poststructuralist theory, particularly with regard to realism.
4) You devoted Part II of the book to the work of Edouard Glissant. What sets his work out from the other authors discussed?
Of all the authors I discuss, Glissant is by far the most concerned with questions of language and poetics; he has produced a body of theoretical work on these issues that has no equivalent in other authors of the francophone Caribbean. He has greatly influenced my own thinking on the subject.
Celia Britton is Emeritus Professor of French and Francophone Studies at University College London and is co-editor of American Creoles (Liverpool University Press, 2012) and the author of The Sense of Community in French Caribbean Fiction (Liverpool University Press, 2008); Race and the Unconscious: Freudianism in French Caribbean Thought (Legenda, 2002); Edouard Glissant and Postcolonial Theory: Strategies of Language and Resistance (University of Virginia Press, 1999).