Get out of Cape Cod

Some thoughts for the end of the term.

One aspect of reading the Walcott that I really enjoyed was being able to read into details and word choices again after spending most of the term studying form and argument. (In continuation of my post on Rousseau – it’s not philosophy!!) What made the property of it being able to stand up to close reading even better was that it’s from 2002, so there’s no need for questions like “Did Walcott write these stage directions himself or are they editorial?” Here’s something that stuck out to me, from page 37:

(They are all shocked to an electric silence.)

I’m still not sure if that was meant to be a pun.

There’s also this, from page 102:

“[Henri Christophe:] Petion is powerful. They are coming,/They are coming, Vastey./If I could move…

[Vastey:] You cannot tell how near they are,/And it is thickening,/And the chateaux are tall and dark”

Macbeth realizing that his reign is over, anyone?


Moving on to the Césaire – there’s more on the role of women. Where Rousseau defines family by fatherhood in the Discourse (pp. 62, 113), Césaire seems to define it by motherhood:

“Orphans torn from your mothers’ breasts” (p. 74)

I don’t know how accurate that interpretation is but it’s something I noticed.

Also, from page 25:

“In the past they stole our names/Our pride/Our nobility”

That reminded me of Spirited Away. I watched it once when I was younger and I remember some of it but not a lot. Maybe for our next movie night?

Page 22 also mentions a swagger stick. I didn’t know what that was at first and I found its name mildly funny. Another example of how meanings change as time goes by (like Rousseau/Cranston and their use of “self-love” – I know I’ve talked about it before, but it’s relevant).

To end this post, two things:

  1. Today seems to be this guy‘s birthday.
  2. Where the title of this post comes from. Also, since they’ve been on tour lately, their own goodbye song.

Thanks for reading, everyone, and thanks for a great term. I know it’s impractical but I’m still sort of wishing for snow.


[Edit: Prof. Beasley-Murray corrected me during the lecture - "Henri Christophe" is not from 2002 but rather 1949. (Embarrassing.) But the point stands; it's still fairly recent. Sorry, everyone.]

Questions for Carpentie

Alright folks. Here are some questions I have about Carpentier’s text

Essentially every character in this text takes violence to be a norm. Violence is everywhere and Carpentier makes it graphic. Violence is public, violence is private, spoken and unspoken.

-Is Carpentier arguing that violence is simply a reality of Haiti and of slave societies? -                  -We also talked a little bit about fetishised objects last class. Is                                       violence fetishised? If so, who fetishises it?

-What can be said about Pauline and Soliman’s relationship? Do they “fall in love”? Why does he freak out so much during the statue/corpse scene? Can we make an assessment about the power dynamics in the relationship, or does Carpentier not allow us enough information to do so?

-”All the bourgeois norms had come tumbling down” (77) is how Carpentier describes the situation of the slave owners in Cuba. There’s definitely something going on there, in terms of significance and meaning for the larger work. The slave owners become free, in a sense. Why do the slaveowners just waste away in sin as they do?

-At the end of ch. 4 (pg. 127), Ti Noel returns to his straw pallet and questions whether “he had really gone to the Cap”. Is this just an example of Carpentier playing with the temporal? Or can more be said about this and the horrors he witnessed in town.

-Apparently, there’s a prologue written by Carpentier (not found in our versions) which outlines his idea of “lo real maravilloso ” and such. Why would the editor not choose to have this prologue in the edition?  What can be said about an author’s writing about his own text – does it help us read it better, can it limit our analysis? Considering some of the fantastical elements found in this novella, is a prologue necessary?



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Are you Spanish or French?

I struggled for a while with pronouncing Carpentier’s name because he was Cuban but Carpentier isn’t a Spanish last name; then I learned that his father was French. All my questions are answered.

This is only semi-appropriate because I can not for the life of me think of any good questions for this text, but I’ll try.

1) The role of sons. Ti Noël has 12 sons. Henri Cristophe has one son, his legitimate heir, assassinated 10 days after he killed himself. Ti Noël’s sons are barely mentioned. Cristophe’s is never mentioned at all, though his daughter’s are; why does Carpentier ignore sons in this novel?

2) After Macandal’s “execution”, it is stated that “Macandal had kept his word, remaining in The Kingdom of This World”. Of course, the end of the novel makes explicit that The Kingdom of This World is a world of suffering. What does this say about the role of suffering in revolution?

3) Ti Noël by the end of the novel (before his metamorphoses) is reduced to a pathetic figure: wearing a stolen coat every day, talking to dolls, living in ruins, entertaining himself with delusions of power. If Ti Noël represents the black everyman, then what is Carpentier saying about the state of the black man, or of Haiti?

4) Queen Marie, both in this novel and the Césaire play, is the only female that is not sexualized. Why?

That’s all I can think of for now.

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The Kingdom of this World

A couple of things really interest me about Carpentier’s The Kingdom of This World. The use of imagery was striking, most likely because of the fact that none of the works up until this point have used it to this extent. Additionally, the fact that I was in the process of writing an essay about Rousseau at the same time that I was reading this essay made me realize some of the differences between unpacking a work of non-fiction and a work of fiction. I found myself trying to decipher and find some sort of symbolic order to the nature imagery in the text, while simultaneously reflecting on my own efforts to do so. The clip I posted about Kafka in my last blog post is mostly at the root of that: acknowledging one’s analytic tendencies as a function of cultural is not something I had ever thought of before. I mean, there is evidently some difference between Carpentier’s form of storytelling and what we might consider European fiction.

Towards the end of the novel it became clear to me that there was a case to be made for a reading of Carpentier’s imagery as deliberately distinct when different perspectives/worldviews are in focus. The way imagery is used when Pauline Bonaparte first sees the Plaine du Nord is drastically different from the imagery at the beginning of the novel when Macandal is central.

Beyond just the imagery though, how much should one try to make sense of magic and the fantastical? Should a reader try to make sense of that which is outside of the realm of reality and sense?

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The Carpentier Who Built the Kingdom (of this World)

I completely forgot that it was my week to blog.

When I first read the title of Kingdom of this World, I didn’t know what to expect or to even like it as much as I did. The books we’ve been assigned for the past two weeks have probably been my favourite set so far. Why?

  1. They were both related to history. It was refreshing to take a break from the heavy amount of philosophy related texts.
  2. Kingdom of this World had characters! I hadn’t realized that I would appreciate the affect that the presence of characters would have on me until characters reappeared in our readings.
  3. The font of the text was HUGE, so the 180 pages were easy to fly through.

I think my favourite part of the book was the ending. Not because I was done the book, but because it was written in a way that is similar to my own writing techniques. The passage that i’m referring to is,

“In the Kingdom of Heaven, there is no grandeur to be won, inasmuch as there all is an established hierarchy, the unknown is revealed, existence is infinite, there is no possibility of sacrifice, all is rest and joy. For this reason, bowed down by suffering and duties, beautiful in the midst of his misery, capable of loving in the face of afflictions and trials, man finds his greatness, his fullest measure, only in the Kingdom of This World.” (pg. 179)

It was such a beautifully written ending that summarized the events that happened in the book well and tied itself back to the choice in title, but at the same time it was able to spark intrigue. I felt complete yet incomplete at the same time. When I try to write my essays, I attempt to leave my audience with the feeling that an ending like this gives, but… I am rarely able to hit something so spot on as Carpentier had produced.

*Please excuse my cheesy title.

Glass and history

1. From page 88:

“In 1791, there is no public debate on the record, in France, in England, or in the United States on the right of black slaves to achieve self-determination, and the right to do so by way of armed resistance.”

What does Trouillot mean by “self-determination” here? I ask because I always thought of it as more of a 20th century term.

2. On page 95, Trouillot discusses scientific racism. I don’t really know how to phrase this as a question. I just think it might be interesting to discuss the history of using science to legitimize bigotry.

3. From page 10:

“Historians had long questioned the veracity of some of the events in Alamo narratives, most notably the story of the line on the ground….Texas historians, and especially Texas-based authors of textbooks and popular history, long concurred that this particular narrative was only “a good story”, and that “it doesn’t really matter whether it is true or not.”

(The footnote to that segment is on page 158.)

There seems to be some shift in the meaning of “historian” in this paragraph. What is it exactly, and what does it say about Trouillot’s stance on the matter?

4. To what extent does Trouillot use narrative techniques to discuss the use of narrative techniques in recording history?

5. From page 142:

History did not need to be mine in order to engage me. It just needed to relate to someone, anyone. It could not just be The Past. It had to be someone’s past.”

Can history exist without being related to the present?


The ending story reminded me on the first read of this. I couldn’t have been the only one.

Oh, and – the copyright information at the front of the book misspells his name as “Michel-Ralph Trouillot”. Thanks for reading, everyone.