Caribbean Writing as World Literature

Research seminar with Conflict, Memory and Heritage Research Group: ‘Caribbean Writing as ‘World Literature’?: Maryse Condé’s Desirada & Patrick Chamoiseau’s Frères Migrants​, presented by Sara-Louise Cooper (Kent).

4:00pm - 5:30pm / Wednesday 22nd November 2017
Type: Seminar / Category: Research / Series: Modern Languages Seminar Series
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This paper proposes a view of Caribbean literature as ‘world literature’ in the sense that it registers and interrogates the material conditions of the emergence of a global world. Globalization began in the Caribbean with the production of the first global commodities, a commercial revolution that changed relationships to the natural world and brought people from three continents into sustained contact for the first time through the foundational crime of plantation slavery. Contemporary Caribbean societies have their origin in this nexus of violent historical, ecological and cultural shifts, and Caribbean writing wrestles with their ongoing legacies. As such, it offers a rich body of thought on what it means to read and write in a globalizing world, and has the potential to contribute to contemporary theoretical debates on the reading and writing of ‘world literature’.
To illustrate this argument, this paper offers readings of two texts, Maryse Condé’s 1997 Desirada and Patrick Chamoiseau’s 2017 Frères migrants. Desirada draws into dialogue the early modern colonial desire for virgin soil and contemporary Caribbean women’s experiences of fertility and child-bearing. Frères migants establishes a parallel between the deaths at sea of enslaved Africans and present-day drownings of refugees in the Mediterranean. Both draw on the literary to bring the historical, the ecological and the cultural into relationship, and in this way, both offer an implicit argument for the literary as a mode adequate to the challenge of reading the complex entanglements of a global world.