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On being West Indian in post-war metropolitan France: perspectives from French West Indian literature

Marshall, Rosalie Dempsy (2012)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Most research into contemporary French West Indian literature focuses on writing that stresses the significance of the plantation and urban cultures of the islands in the early to mid-twentieth century or, more recently, on the desire of some writers to explore broader trans-national influences or environments. Despite the prominence of migration in post-war French West Indian history, however, less has been said about the engagement of French West Indian literature with migration to metropolitan France. Although commentators have recently begun to discuss the work of a handful of writers in connection with migration to the métropole, this thesis offers a full-length analysis of the issue, bringing writers, texts and literary and cultural theories together with the cultural and sociological context of migration to metropolitan France. I comment on a variety of well-known authors and texts, while also presenting writers and writing that have frequently been neglected in other studies. I also consider the reasons for what I believe to be both the slow development of a literature of migration, as well as the low profile of this issue within Francophone literary studies. Part One, ‘French and West Indian: Historical and Sociological Contexts’, considers the broad context of migration, reflecting on how that context impacts on the West Indians and their descendants in the métropole. Part Two, ‘Theory and the French West Indian Diaspora’, looks at colonisation, postcolonial criticism, and the current scholarship devoted to them, as these concern the issues of migration and identity in sociological and literary terms. Part Three, ‘Patterns of Discourse: Reflections of the Métropole’, takes recurrent themes that have appeared in the works of a variety of less well-known writers, including writers of West Indian origin born in the métropole. In Part Four, ‘Siting the Métropole’, I examine three successful yet very different writers and consider their contributions to the literature of migration, in the light of the reflections made and the patterns uncovered earlier in this thesis. My conclusion unites the themes of inclusion and exclusion that this subject brings to the fore, and suggests potential literary and scholarly developments for the future.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Birkett, Jennifer and James, Conrad
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:Department of French Studies
Subjects:F1201 Latin America (General)
HM Sociology
PN Literature (General)
PQ Romance literatures
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:3334
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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