Date of Award

12-1-1993

Degree Type

Thesis

University or Center

Clark Atlanta University(CAU)

School

School of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

M.A.

Department

Foreign Languages

First Advisor

Dr. Paul M. Brown

Abstract

This thesis considers the influence of three West Indian writers who contributed to the development of Negritude as a literary, social and political phenomenon. The author shows that the racial awareness central to the Negritude movement was strongly affected by the experiences in Haiti and Martinique in particular. The thesis is comprised of three chapters and a conclusion. The first examines the awakening of racial consciousness in Paris in the 1930s and ‘40s, placing those developments in literary and historical perspective. This chapter also serves as an introduction to the milieu of West Indian and black American writers who were aggressively active in deriving a literary response to racial oppression. The second and third chapters analyze the roles of individual writers. The second chapter probes the writings of Jacques Roumain. He made an impression with his Marxist analysis of the Haitian situation, pushed for an “indigenous” Haitian literature, and developed the peasant novel. By using excerpts from essays, poems, and his novel, Gouverneurs de la Rosee, the writer details the influence of this Haitian author on Negritude writers. The third chapter considers two lesser—studied writers, the Martinicans Etienne Lero and Gilbert Gratiant. Gratiant embraced the mixed cultural heritage of Martinique, while Lero fought for an African outlook in initiating Legitime Defense, and through other contributions. An exploration of a small sampling of their work will help to clarify the context of color and caste in Martinique. The conclusion summarizes the authors’ social critique of French civilization and shows that the experiences of the West Indian authors discussed in the thesis influenced the principal leaders of Negritude--Leopold Sedar Senghor, Leon Damas and Aime Cesaire--and that this can be seen in the conceptions the Negritude movement embraced.

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