Figuring Abjection: The Slave Mother in the Early Creole Novel

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While twentieth century Caribbean literature in French (particularly post-Césaire) has generated a large body of criticism, writing from the nineteenth century has been largely neglected. This article begins by contextualising the Creole novel of the early nineteenth century in cultural and historical terms, before proceeding to an analysis of two novels published in 1835 by Martinican authors: Outre-mer by Louis de Maynard, and Les Créoles by Jules Levilloux. In the few studies that exist, these texts have been read in opposition to each other in terms of their portrayal of the (male) mulatto; Levilloux has generally been considered the more progressive writer in this regard. However they are in fact in striking harmony in their depiction of the black mother, a figure (in both senses, as her physiognomy is central in her portrayal) who has until now been overlooked. For both writers, the elderly black mother is an abject and wretched creature. She has necessarily to be shown to be repulsive, filthy and morally hideous in old age in order to counteract the fascination she provokes, and to embody a phantasised repellent to the desires of the white male.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-75
Number of pages15
JournalFrench Studies
Issue number1
Early online date02 Nov 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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