In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

L ’E spr it C r éa te u r Strauss observed in the body painting of Amerindians, Caribbean literature is a kind of “ pensée sauvage” which attempts to resolve at the imaginative level conflicts which are intolerable in lived reality. It is precisely this question of subjectification or self-formation which is the concern of Scharfman’s study of Césaire’s poetry. We are both heartened that she concerns herself with this crucial issue in Césaire’s work and dismayed that she tackles this complex issue in such a slim volume. Her critical sources are impressive. Others have treated the quest for identity in Césaire but, by focusing on the subject, Scharfman immediately invokes modern literary theory. Her work promises to be a fruitful encounter between recent critical method and one of the most elusively complex poets of the Caribbean. The very title of Césaire’s recent moi, laminaire... points to his interest in self definition. In her treatment of the problematics of the subject in Césaire, Scharfman sets out to be as restrained and clinical as possible. She deplores the lyricism of other critics and reserves her effusiveness for the introduction (stunning, glorious, etc.). Her hypothesis is that the Césairean text is an arena within which the subject struggles to emerge and liberate itself from the other’s asphyxiating force. The self is faced with the other on the outside (Europe, language itself) and confronted by the other on the inside (the past, the island as “ patrie intime” ). Scharfman first discusses five critical models. Fanon’s two books, Memmi’s Portrait du colonisé, Sartre’s Orphée noir and Jameson’s essay on the problem of the sub­ ject. She then proceeds to a close reading of some of Césaire’s most daunting poems. Unfortunately, the arbitrariness in the choice of critical models is as great as the incon­ clusiveness of the critical discussion. It is not useful to isolate Césaire from other artists in the French Caribbean who wrestle with the problem of self-formation. Surely the exhausted, vagrant “ moi” in Damas and Glissant’s meditation on the self provides some insight into Césaire’s dilemma? Perhaps, Césaire is trying to do more than simply write the subject into existence. So much of his poetry seems to be a critique of the structuring sub­ ject and a vision of the poetic “ moi” as a site through which the collective experience is articulated. As early as 1973 Kesteloot sensed this element of the post-modern in Césaire in her use of the term “ auto-dévoration” to describe the dissolution of the subject in Césaire’s Ferrements. Indeed, Césaire in his Cahier speaks of the need to be porous and cautions that “ la force n’est pas en nous mais au-dessus de nous.” There can be no doubt about the value of critically examining the problematics of the self in Césaire’s poetry. Unfortunately, Scharfman’s study is far from being the last word on this question. References to Jameson or Lacan do not always illuminate. We are treated to a surprisingly bland reading of the Cahier. Scharfman is at her best in a quite tradi­ tional close reading of some of Césare’s more hermetic short poems. Given the opacity of the Césairean text and the complexity of her subject, we ultimately sympathise with Scharf­ man’s difficulty in rendering unto Césaire the critical recognition that is Césaire’s. J . M ic h a e l D a s h University o f the West Indies Renée Riese Hubert. S u r r e a l is m a n d t h e B o o k . Berkeley. University of California Press, 1988. Pp. xvii + 358. $65. This handsome volume takes its place among a still small but growing number of studies of book design and illustration seen in relation to issues in literary criticism and theory. Renée Riese Hubert can in fact lay claim to being among the first literary scholars to recog­ nize in the illustrated book an artefact of considerable importance...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 94-95
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.