Christie Margrave, Eco-regional Identities in the 19th-Century French Caribbean Novel: Traversay’s Les Amours de Zémédare et Carina and Bergeaud’s Stella

Christie Margrave

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

It has been claimed that Caribbean literature ‘has continuously addressed, rather than belatedly discovered, its commitment to the environment’ (Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert, ‘Deforestation and the Yearning for Lost Landscapes in Caribbean Literatures’, in Elizabeth DeLoughrey and George B. Handley, Postcolonial Ecologies: Literatures of the Environment (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 99-116, p.100). Traversay’s Les Amours de Zémédare et Carina (1806) and Bergeaud’s Stella (1859) prove this. This paper examines these authors’ portrayal of a Caribbean landscape severely altered by imperialist commerce, plantation economy, and industrial change. It argues that their novels make 1) a pragmatic call for conservation of landscape and need to reinvigorate landscape by means of planting and 2) a consequent call to ‘put down roots’, and to establish a new identity based on an eco-conscious society. Whilst Traversay argues for new identities based on the conservation of land for the purposes of fulfilling colonial needs, Bergeaud critiques the plantation economy and its use of slavery. Bergeaud argues that a suppressed voice can be restored after losing oneself amid forests, mountains and rivers and re-emerging with a new identity formed in relation to the world itself. This identity leads, in turn, to the foundation of a free society. Examining these understudied novels through the lens of postcolonial ecocriticism allows us to perceive the ways in which Francophone colonial authors perceived the history of the land to be inseparable from socio-political history on both a regional and an international level. Ultimately, both novels foreground landscape as a participant in the changing nature of France and her colonies, and allow us to begin to map the colonial metropole’s relationship to non-metropolitan space.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2019

Keywords

  • Caribbean literature
  • nineteenth century
  • Francophone literature
  • ecoregion
  • landscape
  • identity

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