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The French Atlantic Triangle Literature and Culture of the Slave Trade by Christopher L. Miller
  

The French Atlantic Triangle Literature and Culture of the Slave Trade

Synopsis

The French Atlantic Triangle Literature and Culture of the Slave Trade by Christopher L. Miller

The French slave trade forced more than one million Africans across the Atlantic to the islands of the Caribbean. It enabled France to establish Saint-Domingue, the single richest colony on earth, and it connected France, Africa, and the Caribbean permanently. Yet the impact of the slave trade on the cultures of France and its colonies has received surprisingly little attention. Until recently, France had not publicly acknowledged its history as a major slave-trading power. The distinguished scholar Christopher L. Miller proposes a thorough assessment of the French slave trade and its cultural ramifications, in a broad, circum-Atlantic inquiry. This magisterial work is the first comprehensive examination of the French Atlantic slave trade and its consequences as represented in the history, literature, and film of France and its former colonies in Africa and the Caribbean.Miller offers a historical introduction to the cultural and economic dynamics of the French slave trade, and he shows how Enlightenment thinkers such as Montesquieu and Voltaire mused about the enslavement of Africans, while Rousseau ignored it. He follows the twists and turns of attitude regarding the slave trade through the works of late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century French writers, including Olympe de Gouges, Madame de Stael, Madame de Duras, Prosper Merimee, and Eugene Sue. For these authors, the slave trade was variously an object of sentiment, a moral conundrum, or an entertaining high-seas adventure. Turning to twentieth-century literature and film, Miller describes how artists from Africa and the Caribbean-including the writers Aime Cesaire, Maryse Conde, and Edouard Glissant, and the filmmakers Ousmane Sembene, Guy Deslauriers, and Roger Gnoan M'Bala-have confronted the aftermath of France's slave trade, attempting to bridge the gaps between silence and disclosure, forgetfulness and memory.

Reviews

The French Atlantic Triangle will stand as a landmark in both the study of slavery and its very particular manifestations in the French Atlantic world. -- Martin Munro * Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies * Thoroughly researched and thought-provoking, this well-written book will be accessible even to readers unfamiliar with the primary texts Miller discusses. . . . It will interest not only those studying French and Francophone literature but also those pursuing work in African and black studies. Highly recommended. Lower division undergraduates through faculty. -- D. L. Boudreau * u Choice * This is a book of encyclopedic reach and vast dimensions. . . . The French Atlantic Triangle is meticulously researched, almost comprehensive in its treatment of the literary corpus, and makes diligent use of historical scholarship. It offers an astonishing web of circuits of reception, rereadings and intertextual relations between key texts . . . and thus fills a troubling gap in French literary and cultural history. . . . The French Atlantic Triangle is a tremendous achievement that is possible only on the basis of decades of committed research and teaching. Most importantly, it is an important rectification of a reprehensible cultural narrative. Perhaps the day will come when French literary history can no longer be written without mentioning the slave trade and the slave colonies that subtended the motherland of liberty. -- Sibylle Fischer * Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History * Miller's project is unusual not only in its broad historical scope but also in its attempt to trace links between 18th and 19th-century French literature and 20th-century works by writers from France's former colonies in Africa and the Caribbean. -- Brent Hayes Edwards * London Review of Books * Miller's The French Atlantic Triangle is an original and highly readable book that makes a significant contribution to scholarship on Atlantic slavery and its role in shaping the modern world. . . . [T]he book's detailed examination of France's long-neglected involvement in the slave trade makes it a necessary read for anyone seeking to understand the cultural echoes of the Middle Passage in the Francophone world and beyond. -- Andrew Optiz * African American Review * This is a lovely book about an un-lovely subject. Christopher L. Miller brings the insight of a mature major scholar to questions about literature, slavery, and culture in the Francophone world. -- Kwame Anthony Appiah, author of * Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers * Revealing a remarkable breadth of knowledge, Christopher L. Miller combines conceptual sophistication, an authoritative analysis of Francophone texts, and a compelling discussion of the ways that the French Atlantic triangle emerged and put a lasting imprint on French imagination and politics. This is a significant contribution to an understanding of the world slavery built. It is a truly great book; it should be read by anyone who cares about race, memory, literature, and citizenship. -Francoise Verges, author of Monsters and Revolutionaries: Colonial Family Romance and Metissage The French Atlantic Triangle is an extremely impressive, compelling, and necessary book. Christopher L. Miller provides a magisterial examination of how the history of slavery, which profoundly shaped the culture of France, has haunted and animated the work of generations of writers and artists. In the process he offers us a new way of defining and seeing the French Atlantic. -Laurent Dubois, author of A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787-1804 The French Atlantic Triangle is a tremendous achievement. Meticulously researched and lucidly written, it is an introduction to a neglected water world, without knowledge of which our encounter with continental history and literature is doomed to perpetuate biases and omissions. -Deborah Jenson, author of Trauma and Its Representations: The Social Life of Mimesis in Post-Revolutionary France Miller's project is unusual not only in its broad historical scope but also in its attempt to trace links between 18th and 19th-century French literature and 20th-century works by writers from France's former colonies in Africa and the Caribbean. - Brent Hayes Edwards, London Review of Books This is a book of encyclopedic reach and vast dimensions. . . . The French Atlantic Triangle is meticulously researched, almost comprehensive in its treatment of the literary corpus, and makes diligent use of historical scholarship. It offers an astonishing web of circuits of reception, rereadings and intertextual relations between key texts . . . and thus fills a troubling gap in French literary and cultural history. . . . The French Atlantic Triangle is a tremendous achievement that is possible only on the basis of decades of committed research and teaching. Most importantly, it is an important rectification of a reprehensible cultural narrative. Perhaps the day will come when French literary history can no longer be written without mentioning the slave trade and the slave colonies that subtended the motherland of liberty. - Sibylle Fischer, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History Thoroughly researched and thought-provoking, this well-written book will be accessible even to readers unfamiliar with the primary texts Miller discusses. . . . It will interest not only those studying French and Francophone literature but also those pursuing work in African and black studies. Highly recommended. Lower division undergraduates through faculty. - D. L. Boudreau, Choice Miller's The French Atlantic Triangle is an original and highly readable book that makes a significant contribution to scholarship on Atlantic slavery and its role in shaping the modern world. . . . [T]he book's detailed examination of France's long-neglected involvement in the slave trade makes it a necessary read for anyone seeking to understand the cultural echoes of the Middle Passage in the Francophone world and beyond. - Andrew Optiz, African American Review The French Atlantic Triangle will stand as a landmark in both the study of slavery and its very particular manifestations in the French Atlantic world.

- Martin Munro, Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies


About the Author

Christopher L. Miller is Frederick Clifford Ford Professor of African American Studies and French at Yale University. He is the author of Nationalists and Nomads: Essays on Francophone African Literature and Culture; Theories of Africans: Francophone Literature and Anthropology in Africa; and Blank Darkness: Africanist Discourse in French.

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Book Info

Publication date

11th January 2008

Author

Christopher L. Miller

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    recommendations

Publisher

Duke University Press

Format

Paperback
592 pages

Categories

Regional studies

ISBN

9780822341512

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