Pre-sent realities counter-memory in Brand, Clarke, Dorsinville, and Laferrière
Date de publication2006
A questioning of history is a prerequisite to eliminating the systemic inequity produced by neo-colonial social and economic structures in the Western world. Such an interrogation figures prominently in representations of slavery and colonialism through memory in the following recent novels under investigation in this study: Dionne Brand's At the Full and Change of the Moon, Austin Clarke's The Polished Hoe, Max Dorsinville's James Wait et les lunettes noire, and Dany Laferrière's Pays sans chapeau. Using memory, these African-Caribbean-Canadian writers illustrate how dominated groups are marginalized within Western historical memory, make historical revisions, and re-construct the foundations of identity. These writers demonstrate that today's reality is pre-sent from the past. Their novels illustrate that the myths of Western historical memory are different from those of collective cultural memory of the once-colonized and that this dichotomy creates identity problems. The study characterizes the novels as fictional autobiographies or biographies of ethnographic proportion. They counter Western historical memory and restore collective cultural memory through strategic uses of historical markers, intertextual references, dates, cultural markers, historic personages, songs and stories from the oral tradition. This thesis examines forms of memory that are transposed into present reality through literature. Pre-sent Realities: Counter-Memory in Brand, Clarke, Dorsinville, and Laferriere Wright points out that literature is an aspect of Western historical memory helping maintain a"dominated--dominating" paradigm within and between nations. She uses Dorsinville's ironic representation of Québécoise bourgeoisie and Brand's depiction of marginal reception of Black culture in Toronto to highlight neo-colonial elements of Canada's pre-sent reality. This thesis is illuminated by the work of Maurice Halbwachs, Albert Memmi, C.L.R. James, and Francoise Lionnet. Evoking the cultural identity theories of Aime Césaire, Édouard Glissant, Derek Walcott, Chris Bongie, Dionne Brand, Max Dorsinville, and Dany Laferrière, this thesis recalls through Canadian literature a Caribbean literary tradition rooted in the reconstruction of memory.