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Voicing Memory

History and Subjectivity in French Caribbean Literature
Nick Nesbitt

BUY Cloth · 288 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813921501 · $65.00 · Jan 2003
BUY Paper · 288 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813921518 · $23.50 · Jan 2003

In Voicing Memory Nick Nesbitt argues that the aesthetic practices of twentieth-century French Caribbean writers reconstruct a historical awareness that had been lost amid the repressive violence of slavery, the plantation system, and colonial exploitation. Drawing on the work of Aimé Césaire, Edouard Glissant, Daniel Maximin, Maryse Condé, and Edwidge Danticat, he shows how these writers use the critical force of the aesthetic imagination to transform the parameters of Antillean experience.

The author takes the aesthetic practices of the black Atlantic—Antillean poetry, literature, and theater, but also Haitian vodou and visual arts, American jazz, and West African musical traditions—to constitute the models informing this Caribbean vernacular historiography. At the same time, Nesbitt shows how concepts from Césaire’s "negritude" to Glissant’s "relation" critically rework European theoretical influences to construct a black Atlantic historical self-consciousness. In so doing, Nesbitt points beyond the regionalism of Antillean exoticism to describe French Caribbean literature as a decisive intervention in the construction of a global modernity.

New World Studies


A skillful balance of textualist, contextualist, and historical elements that makes a markedly original and substantial contribution to Caribbean studies—it’s outstanding.

Laurence M. Porter, author of The Crisis of French Symbolism

Voicing Memory differs from all the rest: Nesbitt’s thesis of a despondent vision of history in Francophone Caribbean literature, one that is retrospective and profoundly critical, represents a new and original approach that parts company with the celebratory interpretation of the historical theme in the literature.

F. Abiola Irele, author of The African Imagination: Literature in Africa and the Black Diaspora

About the Author(s): 

Nick Nesbitt is Assistant Professor of French in the Department of French and Italian Studies at Miami University, Ohio.

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