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The Francophone Caribbean (Martinique)


The first writer for this week is Suzanne Roussi-Césaire. She was a surrealist, literary critic,  and activist. Suzanne Césaire was an editor and writer for the cultural magazine Tropiques (1941-1945). She was an important influence on the philosophical and political direction of the magazine.  She published seven articles in Tropiques, as well as penned the collective response from the editorial board to the censors after they banned further publication in 1943, while Martinique was controlled by the Vichy government in France. She largely ceased writing once Tropiques ended, after which she was a mother to six children, supported her husband’s political career, and taught in both Martinique and Haiti. She was involved in the far-left feminist organization Union des Femmes de la Martinique (UFM), at least until Aimé Césaire’s break with Parti Communiste Français (PCF) in 1956, and his founding of the Parti Progressiste Martiniquais (PPM) in 1958, after which many feminists followed the Césaires from the communist- affiliated UFM to the PPM. Her work has been influential for her contemporaries as well as later theorists.

The second author for this week is Yva Léro (1912-2007). She was a feminist activist and creative writer from Martinique who was close with the Césaires. She was actively involved in the Union des Femmes de la Martinique. The UFM was strongly affiliated with the Parti Communiste Français, which supported the organization as well as the enfranchisement of women in 1944. The organization was founded in June 1944 by five women: Jane Léro (her sister-in-law), Yvette Guitteaud-Mauvois, Rosette Eugène, Désirée Maurice Huygues-Beaufond and Eudora Montredon-Clovis.  The UFM began by encouraging women to use their newly won right to vote, and then fought against malnutrition, for the health and education of children, and for social security.

Yva Léro has written collections of poetry and short stories, as well as a novel. Her work is almost entirely untranslated from French (except for a single poem in the 2009 collection edited by Franklin Rosemont and Robin D.G. Kelley’s Black, Brown, & Beige: Surrealist Writings from Africa and the Diaspora). Her novel, La Plaie (1957) tells the story of a young village girl who moves to Fort-de-France to continue her education, where she encounters prejudices based on gender, class, and race, and has to find her way back to herself after internalizing her own devaluation.

Primary Texts
“Poetic Destitution”, “The Malaise of a Civilization” and “The Great Camouflage” in Césaire, Suzanne, and Daniel Maximin. The Great Camouflage : Writings of Dissent (1941-1945). Middletown, Conn: Wesleyan University Press, 2012. 

Léro, Yva, “Little Black Divers” in Kelley, Robin D. G., and Franklin. Rosemont. Black, Brown, & Beige : Surrealist Writings from Africa and the Diaspora. 1st ed. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009.

Léro, Yva. La plaie : roman. Fort-de- , [Martinique: s. n.], 1957.

 Secondary Texts
“Suzanne Césaire, sun-filled fountain” in Césaire, Suzanne, and Daniel Maximin. The Great Camouflage : Writings of Dissent (1941-1945). Middletown, Conn: Wesleyan University Press, 2012.

“Suzanne Césaire : Tropiques, Negritude, Surrealism, 1941-45” in Sharpley-Whiting, T. Denean. Negritude Women. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002.
Rabbitt, Kara. “In Search of the Missing Mother: Suzanne Césaire, Martiniquaise.” Research in African Literatures 44, no. 1 (2013): 36–54.

Vété-Congolo, Hanétha. "Léro, Yva." In Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro–Latin American Biography. : Oxford University Press, 2016.

Week 8 - Martinique