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?



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?


I found a really cool audio clip of David Foster Wallace speaking about Kafka. I think it answers this question I asked in the first class in some weird, round-about way. I would also like to take a second to apologize for that question, which I felt like a complete dofus about immediately after asking it. Anyways, I also feel like DFW sums up why, as a North American undergrad student interested in studying/analyzing literature, I may have asked it.


Silencing the Past

As much as Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past advances ideas concerning history and historiography, I could not be more stirred by Trouillot’s meditations on present-day Haiti. One idea I find especially provocative in this work is taken up only briefly:

“With time, the silencing of the revolution was strengthened by the fate of Haiti itself. Ostracized for the better part of the nineteenth century, the country deteriorated both economically and politically – in part as a result of this ostracism. As Haiti declined, the reality of the revolution seemed increasingly distant, an improbability which took place in an awkward past and for which no one had a rational explanation.” (98)

Trouillot adds a short end-note after the second sentence, in which he simply references another one of his works Haiti: State Against Nation. The dynamics between past and present that Trouillot mentions makes what he is discussing more relevant and more tangible. Elsewhere, Trouillot discusses the way revolutions and dissent in the Caribbean during the 18th and 19th Century was viewed as a replication or result of European revolutions/revolutionary ideas. I found this intriguing on a personal level; I had done quite a bit of research on revolts in French colonies around the time of the French Revolution for a research paper last year, and always treated them as a subsidiary of the Revolution in Europe. Haiti is a state that the “developed world” has more or less left behind. I can’t help but think that if we were taught more about the revolution in Haiti (and as a Haitian revolution, not a European-influenced one) we would pay more attention to a country that is much closer to us then Europe. Of course, the idea of a white, middle class male “paying attention” to Haiti has its own bundles of problems, but I suppose those are things to be worked out in time.

All this to say, it is incredibly refreshing to read an author who is outside of the “Western” (I use that term reluctantly as a simple reference point, as Trouillot does spend some time discussing it) tradition. Silencing the Past has sparked a curiosity in me when it comes to Haitian and Caribbean history.

Questions for Leviathan

Couple questions about Hobbes’ Leviathan. A bit late, but hey, maybe something can be made out of them.

1. How much does fear play a part in Hobbes notion of the state?

This is in regards to the idea of man in his pre-social condition, and I suppose could be complemented by the question:

2. How can we view Hobbes work, especially the idea of man in his state of nature, through a psychoanalytical lens?

3. How does the idea of being imprisoned factor into Hobbes sovereign state?

4. Is Leviathan, undoubtedly a utopian or normative project, does not seem to fit into Hobbes’ definition of the imagination. How do we place this text within Hobbes’ philosophy when considering it as a creative work?

5. Does Hobbes’ materialism undermine the importance he puts on power in Chapter X (especially section [5])?

or am I just unclear on what materialism is…