Re-reading race, identity and color from the nineteenth-century naturalists to twentieth- and twenty-first century migrant narrative Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Collins, Holly L.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Romance Studies
  • This dissertation traces the emergence and evolution of ideas on race in nineteenth-century French literature, especially in naturalism, and in twentieth- and twenty-first century Francophone postcolonial literature. My study centers around the functions of memory, myth and the gaze as they play an important role in the development of one's sense of identity and also contribute to essentialist views on race. The internalization of racial myths continues to affect racial dynamics in the Francophone world due to the persistence of nineteenth-century views on race and color. In my dissertation I focus on the still very important biological roots of modern racial constructions that associated the color difference of the indigenous peoples in the colonies with inherent difference. Key nineteenth-century authors such as Emile Zola, Guy de Maupassant and Claire de Duras played an important role in shaping the racialized gaze that constructed the otherness of the indigenous subject. These perceptions developed into various racial and racist myths, so often repeated that they began to seem natural. Through the study of the use of race and color in the postcolonial writings of Maryse Condé and Dany Laferrière I examine the influence of these nineteenth-century constructions of the idea of race in contemporary post-colonial identity. The way in which these authors take on and subsequently disassemble latent mythology on race and color is key in the adoption and devotion to a creolized notion of identity as suggested by Edouard Glissant. This way of looking at identity dismisses the idea of pure origins and races as they were conceived in the nineteenth-century Western imaginary and privileges a hybridized, transcultural identity, a certain métissage, where of central importance is the idea that none of the components holds more valor than the others. By re-reading race as a problematic construction in important works where it has been ignored, I highlight many of the racial perceptions that continue to exert influence in the post-colonial French speaking world.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures (French)."
  • Fisher, Dominique D.
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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