Packaging Post/Coloniality

Packaging Post/Coloniality : The Manufacture of Literary Identity in the Francophone World

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In Packaging Post/Coloniality, Richard Watts breaks from convention and reads Francophone books by their covers, focusing on the package over the content. Watts looks at the ways that the "paratext"-the covers, illustrations, promotional summaries, epigraphs, dedications, and prefaces or forewords that enclose the text-mediates creative works by writers from sub-Saharan Africa, the Maghreb, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia whose place in the French literary institution was and remains a source of conflict. In order to be acceptable for French bookstore shelves, the novels, essays, and collections of poetry created in colonial territories were deemed to need explanation and sponsorship by an authority in the field. Watts finds the French mission civilisatrice, or "civilizing mission," manifest in prefaces, introductions, and dedications inserted in the books that appeared in the metropole during the height of French imperialism. In the postcolonial era, book packaging reveals a struggle to reverse the power dynamic: Francophone writers introduced each others' texts, yet books still appeared with covers promoting stereotypical images of the Francophone world.
This fascinating journey through a particular cultural history of the book is a unique take on the quest for a literary identity. Watts concludes his study by looking at English mediations of Francophone works, with a chapter on reading and teaching Francophone literature in translation.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 184 pages
  • 153 x 236 x 20mm | 449g
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • New
  • 0739108557
  • 9780739108550

Table of contents

Chapter 1 Introduction: Paratexts and the Mediation of Culture Part 2 The Colonial Paratext and Its Imperial Desires Chapter 3 Black Text, White Masks: The Colonial Paratext in Sub-Saharan Africa Chapter 4 "The Felicitous Graft:" Hybridity and Anxiety in Indochina and North Africa Part 5 The Textual Histories of Decolonization Chapter 6 Senghor and Sartre between the Colonial and the Postcolonial Chapter 7 Aime Cesaire's Cahier d'un retour au pays natal and Its Displacements Part 8 Postcolonial Transfigurations of the Books Chapter 9 Glissant, Lopes, and the Ambivalence of the Postcolonial Paratext Chapter 10 Gender and the Paratext Chapter 11 Reading and Teaching Francophone Literatures in Translation
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Review quote

A further addition to Lexington's increasingly impressive 'After the Empire' series... Watts challenges monolithic misrepresentations of the French Empire (and its discursive manifestations), exploring instead the historical (dis)continuities evident in an inclusively francophone postcoloniality... By illustrating the ways in which the foreignness of francophone literature has been mediated for its various audiences, he offers a highly original study of that literature's complex genealogy. Research in African Literatures The advent of reception theory has drawn attention to the conventions that govern the production of the literary text, the protocols which enable us to recognize such a text and facilitate access to it. Richard Watt provides in this book an illuminating discussion of these paratextual aspects of literature, which loom large in francophone literature, pointing us to the way in which the role of individuals such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Leopold Sedar Senghor has been determinant in the genesis and evolution of this literature. -- F. Abiola Irele, Harvard University In this original and insightful examination of Francophone texts, Watts shows how this literature was essentially recontextualized by particular prefaces. This theorizing of the ideological use of the paratext to create new possibilities for interpretation and readership provides as much an insight into French cultural politics as an understanding of how Francophone literature came to be read. -- J. Michael Dash, New York University Sometimes books need to be judged by their covers-wisely and with keen insight, as Richard Watts does in this original and dynamic study of the Francophone paratext. Cutting across the usual paths of criticism, digging deep into the colonial archive, Watts heightens our sensitivity to a whole range of marginal gestures whose importance turns out to be central. A surprising and rewarding book. -- Christopher L. Miller, Yale University
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About Richard Watts

Richard Watts is Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies at Tulane University.
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