Manifestes et programmes littéraires aux Caraïbes francophones : En/jeux idéologiques et poétiques by Michal Obszyński (review)
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Manifestes et programmes littéraires aux Caraïbes francophones: En/jeux idéologiques et poétiques. By Michal Obszyński. Leiden/Boston: Brill/Rodopi, 2016. ISBN 9789004309128. 278 pp. $78 US. Print and E-book.

Michal Obszyński's Manifestes et programmes littéraires aux Caraïbes francophones : En/jeux idéologiques et poétiques offers an excellent chronological account and analysis of texts whose overt intention has been to seek "affirmation and worldly respect" (from the "Abstract," 259, which is in English, although the rest of the book is in French) by putting forth theories of aesthetics, ethics, and/or identity. Obszyński emphasizes the constant push and pull between the need for European affirmation, on one hand, and the desire to better articulate an ethos that expresses itself aesthetically, and that rids itself of the need for European recognition, on the other. The major contributions of Obszyński's study are: 1) its inventory and analysis of scholarly production in French from university milieus in the Caribbean, France, and Québec, work that is often ignored by scholars working in the English-based academy; 2) its establishment of criteria to assess the rhetorical devices through which a text asserts an ethical agenda; and 3) its consideration of more contemporary texts, such as the two iterations of Pour une littérature-monde (2007), within a longer French (and in-French but non-Hexagone) tradition of the literary manifesto. As such, the volume resonates with Mary Ann Caws's prolific work on the manifesto and aesthetic practice; Kaiama L. Glover's Haiti Unbound: A Spiralist Challenge to the Postcolonial Canon (2011), on the postcolonial star system; Richard Watt's Packaging Post/Coloniality: The Manufacture of Literary Identity in the Francophone World (2005); the volume Transnational French Studies: Postcolonialism and Littérature-monde (2010), edited by Alec G. Hargreaves, Charles Forsdick, and David Murphy; and, most recently, Chelsea Stieber's work on 1920s Haitian literary journals as well as the special section in Small Axe (vol. 52) titled "Eulogizing Creoleness? Rereading Éloge de la créolité and Caribbean Identity, Culture, and Politics" (2017), edited by Martin Munro and Celia Britton.1

With outstanding clarity, Obszyński articulates the tension between three simultaneous dynamics pertaining to nonfiction and creative nonfiction texts that assert a specifically Antillean and/or Haitian identity: the tension between the aesthetic and the ethical, the conflict between the communal and the individual, and the desire to be part of Europe but also distinct from, if not completely rid of, it. Obszyński writes, "Toute écriture [End Page 186] manifestaire à visée esthétique s'avère aussi une prise de position et un projet éthique" (41). The volume is divided into three long chapters. The first works through theories around the manifesto; the second and third chapters chronologically take inventory of manifestos, prefaces, journals, and specific essays that proclaim a literary aesthetic or ethico-aesthetic agenda. The chapters are divided into subsections, each of which clearly identifies a given text.

The first chapter, titled "L'Écrit manifestaire : Théories et axes d'analyse" is dedicated to a review of literary manifestos that engage in the aesthetic and/or the literary, as well as genres related to the manifesto. For the reader who is not familiar with such literature, the chapter offers a clear overview of scholarship on the subject. Obszyński explains that manifestos draw on rhetorical devices that are "polémique" and even "blasphématoire" (25), and almost always overly dramatic and performative (23), because their intention is to impose themselves aggressively on their readers. They also follow prescriptive formats: one type denounces a certain social or aesthetic practice and proposes a break with the old but does not propose any alternative (25); a second denounces the old and proposes a new set of alternatives to replace what has been denounced (26). There are also texts that Obszyński characterizes as "épimanifestes" (21), whose explicit intention is not "manifestaire"; they nonetheless proclaim more discreetly a break with the existent state of affairs and offer a new way forward. The best known of these texts is of course Aimé Césaire's Notebook...