In Orphan Narratives, Valérie Loichot investigates the fiction and poetry of four writers who emerged from the postslavery plantation world of the Americas—William Faulkner (USA), Édouard Glissant (Martinique), Toni Morrison (USA), and Saint-John Perse (Guadeloupe)—to show how these descendants from slaves and from slaveholders wrote both in relation and in resistance to the violence of plantation slavery. She uses the term "orphan narrative" to capture the ways in which this violence severed the child, the text, and history from a traceable origin. Black or white, male or female, Antillean or American, these writers share a common inheritance and transnational connection through which their texts maintain familial, temporal, and narrative patterns without having any central authority figure.
The author specifically cites Saint-John Perse’s Éloges (1911), Faulkner’s Light in August (1932), Morrison’s Song of Solomon (1977), and Glissant’s La Case du commandeur (1981) as postslavery texts. Where the actual family is dismembered, these narrative accounts invent new familial links. Reciprocally, biological family ties endure despite the literal and discursive violence inflicted upon them.
Breaking new ground in trans-American studies by juxtaposing texts from the francophone Lesser Antilles and the U.S. South, Orphan Narratives will be a valuable addition to Caribbean, American, and postcolonial studies, not to mention its appeal to scholars and students of Faulkner, Glissant, Morrison, and Saint-John Perse.
In this original and perceptive book, Loichot argues for a New World familial network or 'fictive kinship' held together by provocative, disruptive tensions. She makes brilliant use of the theories of Edouard Glissant in this innovative juxtaposition of texts. In an entangled dialogue of 'orphaned narratives,' genealogy is revised and key figures of New World writing are imaginatively connected not in terms of postcolonial theory but through the postplantation poetics of the Other America.—J. Michael Dash, New York University"Loichot's Orphan Narratives is a rich comparative study that cuts across national and linguistic boundaries. Reading Faulkner through the lens of francophone and anglophone Caribbean theorists, the author engages in a subtle contrapuntal dialogue with Toni Morrison and Edouard Glissant. This compelling and original book privileges what appear to be tensions and frictions within the objects of study so that the series of close readings sheds new light on texts and makes us want to read them again for the first time.
Valerie Loichot is Associate Professor in the Department of French and Italian at Emory University.