Not a Dancing Bear: Poetry of the French Caribbean


ACLS Fellowship Program


French and Italian, Comparative Literature

Named Award

ACLS/NEH International and Area Studies Fellow named award


This project studies of the emergence and development of a poetic avant-garde in the French Antilles under the severe constraints of “assimilation.” The policy of assimilation worked to replace reference points in the immediate surroundings with a cognitive map—a way of interpreting physical and existential realities—derived from an entirely different culture and clime. It also imposed a body “hexis,” a restrained way of moving, on the bodies of educated Caribbeans. This project analyzes how three Caribbean poets, Aimé Césaire, Léon-Gontran Damas, and Édouard Glissant, respond to this two-pronged attack on lived experience. Their innovative thought and practice forces poetry studies, imbued with the lessons of poststructuralism, to return to problems left unresolved, such as the relation between language and the physical body, and the connection between text and context.