It is now more than twenty years since the Guadeloupean writer Maryse Condé famously spoke out against a male-dominated, prescriptive “order” in French Caribbean literature, in her polemical essay, “Order, Disorder, Freedom, and the West Indian Writer” (1993). The intervening years witnessed a major scholarly effort to remedy one of Condé’s most trenchant critiques: that “apart from one or two names, the female writers of the West Indies are little known. Their works are forgotten, out of print, misunderstood” (130). New and compelling perspectives on women’s literature from the region have since been provided through research by scholars such as Lionnet (1995), Haigh (2000), Mehta (2009), and Dobie and Cottias (2012), to name but a few. Yet there has been little investigation (with the exception of Thomas, 2006) into how women are represented by both male and female authors from the islands.
The question demands attention because misogynistic tendencies are regularly identified in French Caribbean men’s writing, even as the critical focus remains largely trained on these male authors’ philosophical, political, or poetic theories. French Caribbean female writers, on the other hand, are often considered to offer more nuanced and complex depictions of women, gender, and sexuality, though tensions exist between their declared views on these subjects and the actual depiction of women within their aesthetic work.
This special dossier of Women in French Studies will therefore interrogate the purported disjunction between male and female authorial visions of women in the Caribbean. It will predominantly examine literature from the island of Martinique: a site where male figures such as Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Édouard Glissant and Patrick Chamoiseau are widely celebrated, but where female authors have not yet achieved parallel levels of acclaim. Tellingly, in Condé’s analysis of restrictive visions of literature and sexuality in the Caribbean, four of the five male writers whose texts she critiqued were Martinican. Further, the ethnographers Richard and Sally Price have since evoked “the routine sexism of Martinican daily life” and described how “masculinist strategies” work to erase or silence women in the island’s literature (“Shadowboxing” 16, 19). Yet some portrayals of women by female Martinican writers – Ina Césaire, Suzanne Dracius, and Fabienne Kanor among them – are rapidly gaining mounting attention and praise. As this literary scene continues to evolve, then, WIF Studies invites a timely scholarly reevaluation of representations of women on the island.
Submissions that explore depictions of women by Martinican authors of any gender are welcome. Articles might address (but are not limited to) the following topics:
Innovative literary considerations of women and/or sexuality, that challenge traditional gender norms or binaries
Portrayals of women or debates around gender that have been overlooked or misconstrued in academic scholarship to date
Literature that sheds light on contemporary gender dynamics on the island
The question of genre and aesthetic value in relation to women’s representation
Discussions of feminism by Martinican writers
How non-Martinican vs. Martinican women are represented by local authors
Complete articles should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 15, 2016. Manuscripts in English or in French should be between 15 and 20 pages in length (double spaced, including notes and list of works cited). All articles will be subject to blind peer review.