Race, Untimely Freedom, And The Question Of Leadership In Aimé CéSaire'S Theatre
This dissertation investigates the interrelation between Césaire's literary and political practice. I focus on his dramatic production ranging from 1946 to 1968, the year marking the first publication of his last play, Une Tempête; I also consider works for which the dramatist engaged important structural revisions, particularly Et les Chiens se Taisaient. My work puts Césaire's Negritudinist literary politics in dialogue with the critique of his political and literary legacy by the writers of the Créolité movement; so doing, I suggest we use the critical lenses of a more encompassing historical approach akin to the recent work on Césaire by literary and cultural critics such as John Walsh (Free and French in the Caribbean) and Gary Wilder (Freedom Time). By investigating the political history of both the anticolonial resistance to French imperialism and post-World War II decolonization movements, I argue that although Césaire's political leadership may appear at odds with the militancy expressed in his literature (his dramatic work in particular), this seemingly paradoxical or ambivalent predilection translates a more pragmatic approach to politics. I thereby maintain that literature (drama to be precise) becomes a mode of cognition for models of political leadership Césaire may choose to affiliate with, or avoid completely for that matter. In this regard, Césaire's writing doubles as a scribal space from which he can negotiate a novel conception of freedom inscribed within the historical legacy of "race" as the sum total of the lived experience of forcible economic exploitation of the labor of slaves brought from the coasts of West and Central Africa. Beyond the reality of their brutal political oppression in the Americas, Césaire attempts to redefine postcolonial emancipation into a political ideal that transcends sheer geographical boundaries, from the French Caribbean (the Martinican "nation," Haïti) to Africa (the Congo). In this perspective, Césaire's paradigm of time acquires elastic properties through its rejection of the western European notion of linear temporality to embrace, instead, what Gary Wilder has termed "untimeliness," as far as the deployment of liberty is concerned in Césaire - I will expand on this notion in the introduction. Chapter One reviews the unfolding of the project of freedom as conceived by Toussaint L'Ouverture for Haïti by engaging the manner in which the Haitian Revolution is narrated in Et les Chiens se Taisaient. Given the existence of two versions of the latter text, this analysis traces the staging of the narrative of freedom in the French Caribbean as well as its articulation within the politico-historical context of Césaire's writing. The subsequent unfolding of Césaire's voice as a dramatist consequently challenges critical methodologies attempting to label the text one way or another ("play" versus "poetic drama," for instance). In this consideration, this chapter also directs its gaze at the tension infused in the production and publication of the San Die Typescript (the original version), which are themselves informed by the political pressures of the World War II Vichy-leaning political regime in Martinique - with important (positive and adverse) consequences on both the content and form of Césaire's first dramatic venture. Chapter Two examines the post-heroic narrative of the struggle for Haitian independence in La Tragédie du Roi Christophe, so as to interrogate the implementation of Toussaint's Freedom project by the unfortunate succession of Henry Christophe at the helms of the country. The argument in this section of the thesis postulates that the burden of freedom generated by Toussaint's death in Et les Chiens se Taisaient finds its tragic expression in Christophe's negation to his people of the basic fundamental rights of liberty and freedom of expression, which were the foundation of the struggle of Haitian Revolution in the first place. Chapter Three goes on to delineate the trajectory of a similar narrative of the tragedy of post-independence liberation as it is deployed, this time, in a non-Caribbean geographical milieu - on the African continent, the Congo - hence the title of Césaire's third play, Une Saison au Congo. Through an examination of the leadership of Patrice Lumumba, Césaire's geographical choice is to be comprehended in the context of his ongoing Third Worldist solidarity with a worldwide anti-colonial struggle in the pursuit of political and economic freedom, for what Fanon has termed "The Wretched of the Earth," i.e., colonized subjects. In my Fourth and last chapter, I present Césaire's last play, Une Tempête, as a case-studies (of sorts) of tensions within Césaire the poet-politician to decide the best medium of achieving political freedom and economic emancipation for Martinicans without repeating the errors of post-liberation leadership and governance in Haïti. His decision to implement the 1946 Departmentalization Law will have a considerable impact on Césaire's leadership of Martinique for decades both in Martinique and at the French National Assembly.
race, untimely freedom; leadership, black theatre; Aimé Césaire, postcolonialism
Cohen,Walter Isaac; Aching,Gerard Laurence
Ph.D. of Comparative Literature
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis