Temporal Wounds: Ancient Echoes in Camus and the Caribbean Open Access

Levy, Judith (Summer 2020)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/3j333354c?locale=en


This dissertation puts the work of Algerian-born philosopher, playwright, and novelist Albert Camus into conversation with various postcolonial and migrant Caribbean authors. By investigating Camus’ simultaneous disavowal of colonial violence but support of the French colonial project, it considers Camus as an ambiguous colonial figure and asks how he can be imported to a Caribbean context with regards to the topics of time, memory, history, and myth. Each chapter poses Albert Camus alongside a Caribbean author while investigating specific allusions to ancient myth or biblical texts. The first chapter reads Haitian-American novelist Edwidge Danticat’s references to Albert Camus in her semi-autobiographical essays, focusing on their allusions to creation myths and the Greek myth of Sisyphus. By using Camus’ philosophy to think through her family’s migration to seek refuge from the Duvalier regime in Haiti, along with her mother’s death, Danticat extracts an approach of endless creation and analysis that creates hope in the face of (post)colonial violence. The second chapter reads the biblical figures of Adam in Camus, along with Ruth in Trinbagonian-Canadian poet M. NourbSe Philip. Considering the contexts of Atlantic slave trade and Algerian colonization, it analyzes pieces of writing that claim that they cannot be read, in which time also falls apart. The final chapter investigates the means by which systemic violence takes place within Camus’ novel L’Étranger and how it is confronted by Algerian author Kamel Daoud’s re-writing of this text. Hinging on the references to Moses, Aaron, Cain, and Abel, this chapter explores the question of responding to violence with more violence. It connects this question to Martinican psychiatrist and philosopher Frantz Fanon’s considerations of racial injustice in Martinique and the Algerian War of Independence. By reading Camus’ subtle critiques, analyzing where his texts echo ancient texts, and by putting his work into conversation with the concerns of memory, history, and literature in the Caribbean, this dissertation examines time’s working and re-working in various (post)colonial contexts.

Table of Contents

Introduction                                                                                                                           1

Mediterranean and Caribbean Liminality: Unsettling A Contemporary Past                     

Chapter 1                                                                                                                               25

Sisyphus and (Re)Writing in Albert Camus and Edwidge Danticat                                      

Chapter 2                                                                                                                               65

Adam and Ruth: (Un)Writing Time in Albert Camus and M. NourbeSe Philip

Chapter 3                                                                                                                               133

Haroun and Moussa: Temporal Assault and the Responsive Trap in Albert Camus, Kamel Daoud, and Frantz Fanon

Afterword                                                                                                                              212

Towards an Open Future

Works Cited                                                                                                                          217

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