Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Politics of adaptation in Anthologie Nègre by Blaise Cendrars and the Ballet La Création du Monde
pdf

Politics of Adaptation in Anthologie Nègre by Blaise Cendrars and the Ballet La Création du Monde The goal of this study is to reexamine the genealogy of one of the first compilations of African oral literature in French, Blaise Cendrars' Anthologie Nègre (1921). Looking at the Anthologie Nègre with a postcolonial lens for the first time, this dissertation seeks to problematize a critical reception of this work as separated from the colonial history of its creation. Drawing on theories of dialogism, adaptation, orientalism and linguistic anthropology, this project explores the myth of Cendrars as an author, the nature of Cendrars' sources, and demonstrates the highly mediated content of those African texts. It draws parallels between the transcription of African oral tales, their multiple rewritings, the paratexts that frame their reception, and the pragmatic uses that were made of those texts during the colonial era. It then compares the rewritings of a same legend from Gabon by a French missionary and Cendrars, and proposes that Cendrars' creative agency and auctorial status be reevaluated. This dissertation then examines Cendrars' further rewriting of this Gabonese legend from the Anthologie Nègre into the libretto of a ballet, La Création du Monde (1923). This stage adaptation reveals the instability of Cendrars' auctorial status, as well as the interconnectedness between his interest in psychiatry, savagery and violence, an interest he shared with the French avant-garde, and that shape his translation of the African other for the stage as pathologized and radically Other. It argues that the focus on the trope of origins, both in the Anthologie Nègre and in the ballet adaptation, and which is relayed by the intertext of the Old Testament, has a naturalizing effect that tends to justify and reinforce unequal relations of race. This project concludes that the written version of the legend and its adaptation into a ballet seem to exemplify an impossibility to tell the Other, and that they result in two apparently opposed modes of representation: while the legend domesticates and homogenizes the African Other, the ballet focuses on staging the uncanny and the untranslatable, in this multi media adaptation that makes it the first total ballet nègre.