Resurfacing: The Poetics of Water in African and Caribbean Literature Open Access

Averett, Bronwyn (2015)

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This dissertation examines works of literature by African and Caribbean writers through a concept that I term resurfacing, which denotes a poetic engagement with bodies of water that recuperates the individual and collective past in the present moment. Drawing from the work of Martinican writer and philosopher Edouard Glissant, I seek to explore the subaquatic connections between Africa and the Caribbean as conceived by creators of fiction and poetry. The element of water is at once life-giving and deathly, and the following study shows that such a paradox evokes the lived experience throughout the black Atlantic. Taking the oral literature of West Africa as my starting point, I move to a discussion of the Atlantic Ocean in contemporary Senegalese literature, in order to pursue a comparative analysis that also examines water as an important element within the conceptions of afterlife in Haitian Vodou. Finally, I explore the intergenerational memory of the Middle Passage as conveyed by Caribbean authors living in Canada. Juxtaposing African and Caribbean texts accomplishes two equally important goals. On the one hand, I am concerned with the sustained relationship between Africa and the Caribbean created by the slave trade and maintained by the deep cultural roots that continue to thrive and to be rearticulated in new forms throughout the Caribbean and the African diaspora more broadly. On the other hand, the discourse surrounding Caribbean cultures brings to the fore the unique position of these islands to cultivate multiplicity, créolité, and infinite complexity. This position lends itself to a rhizomatic openness that is productively accommodating of difference. Therefore, this dissertation considers what it would mean to see the weblike structures so readily available to an analysis of Caribbean literature and intellectual history at work in the African context. In essence, resurfacing distinguishes a creative process at work wherein the waters of the world symbolically become a vast repository of history, memory, and spiritual and artistic consciousness that is poetically engaged in literature throughout Atlantic spaces.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Is the Sea History? 1

'Où gît la vérité': Truth, Water and Myth in Diop, Dadié, Griaule and Sadji 29

From Womb to Tomb: The Atlantic as a Site of Social Death and

Narrative Rebirth in Edwidge Danticat and Fatou Diome 83

Bodies in the Water: The Memory of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in

M. NourbeSe Philip and Marie-Célie Agnant 142

Epilogue: Cercueils fluides, cimetières marins 194

Notes 207

Bibliography 222

Non-printed Sources 231

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