Small Worlds: Constructions of Childhood in Contemporary Postcolonial Autobiography in French

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Abstract

This article explores the resurgence of narratives of childhood in contemporary postcolonial writing in French. The first section will trace the rise and fall of the récit d'enfance, before going on to examine the commodification and packaging of the genre by metropolitan publishers, a tendency which could be seen to be complicit with an exoticizing view of the colony. While the upsurge in narratives of childhood is widespread throughout the francophone world, it is in fact remarkably concentrated in the French Caribbean. The second section of the article will attempt, then, to account for this preference. It will argue that for Caribbean writers, the confluence of geography and history means that the island functions, on a metaphorical level, as both a powerful child-land and an I-land. The spatial contours of the island, and its topography, strongly influence the ways in which childhood is imagined. We will look in particular at two autobiographies of childhood, Daniel Maximin's Tu, c'est l'enfance and Emile Ollivier's Mille Eaux. These works demonstrate a particularly acute island consciousness, exemplifying the tensions and contradictions inherent in the apprehension of island space, and the imbrication of space and a (highly individualized) sense of identity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-214
Number of pages12
JournalRomance Studies
Volume24
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2006

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