Architextual Authenticity

Constructing Literature and Literary Identity in the French Caribbean

Jason Herbeck

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ISBN: 9781786940391

Publication: September 22, 2017

Series: Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures 47

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Construction of identity has constituted a vigorous source of debate in the Caribbean from the early days of colonization to the present, and under the varying guises of independence, departmentalization, dictatorship, overseas collectivity and occupation. Given the strictures and structures of colonialism long imposed upon the colonized subject, the (re)makings of identity have proven anything but evident when it comes to determining authentic expressions and perceptions of the postcolonial self. By way of close readings of both constructions in literature and the construction of literature, Architextual Authenticity: Constructing Literature and Literary Identity in the French Caribbean proposes an original, informative frame of reference for understanding the long and ever-evolving struggle for social, cultural, historical and political autonomy in the region. Taking as its point of focus diverse canonical and lesser-known texts from Guadeloupe, Martinique and Haiti published between 1958 and 2013, this book examines the trope of the house (architecture) and the meta-textual construction of texts (architexture) as a means of conceptualizing and articulating how authentic means of expression are and have been created in French-Caribbean literature over the greater part of the past half-century—whether it be in the context of the years leading up to or following the departmentalization of France’s overseas colonies in the 1940’s, the wrath of Hurricane Hugo in 1989, or the devastating Haiti earthquake of 2010.

Jason Herbeck is Professor of French at Boise State University (Idaho). His research focuses primarily on evolving narrative forms in twentieth and twenty-first-century French and French-Caribbean literatures, and how these forms relate to expressions and constructions of identity. In addition to many articles and book chapters devoted to the literatures and histories of Haiti, Martinique and Guadeloupe, he has also published widely on Albert Camus and is, since 2009, President of the North American Section of the Société des Études Camusiennes.

Introduction: Questioning the Construction of Dogma

1. Past and Present Matter(s): Vernacular Architecture, the Caribbean House and the Building Blocks of Literature

2. Righting/Writing the Faulted House in Édouard Glissant’s La Lézarde

3. Gouverneurs de la… Mangrove: Architextual Authenticity in Maryse Condé’s Traversée de la Mangrove

4. Reflections on Interior Design: Daniel Maximin’s L’Île et une nuit

5. Literature of Reconstruction: An Architextual Assessment of Post-Earthquake Haiti in Yanick Lahens’s Failles and Guillaume et Nathalie

Conclusion: Reconquering Dimensions: No Place Like Home


'Jason Herbeck’s impressive monograph broadens the field of literary landscape studies through his focus on manmade structures ... His rigorous analyses of human landscapes in works by Edouard Glissant, Maryse Condé, Daniel Maximin, and Yanick Lahens serve to complement prior scholarship as well as provide new critical perspectives relevant to postcolonial studies across the board ... this is an excellent book whose impact promises to be far reaching.'
Allison Connolly, H-France Review


The approach of rethinking authenticity in relation to the built environment is an innovative one, and the book puts to good use human geography approaches to place as actively constructed in and through human relationships. Some of the close reading of texts in relation to buildings and structure is enlightening, and there is an interesting attempt to understand texts in terms of a wider architecture of both society and intertextuality. The book comes together into an absorbing set of arguments.

The close reading of intertextualities in the range of texts was fascinating, and it was very interesting to have this discussion placed in the specific context of Haiti for example, and of the very material dynamics of the relationships between architecture and authenticity in recent events: this gave a pleasingly concrete push to the discussions of socio-political structures, and grounded the succeeding discussion in a genuinely innovative way. I found the book overall a very enjoyable read. 

Patricia Noxolo, Caribbean Studies


In Architextual Authenticity, Jason Herbeck grapples with two keywords central to understandings of Caribbean literature in French, namely ‘identity’ and ‘authenticity’. Focused on a close reading of five core texts from Guadeloupe, Martinique and Haiti, the study explores the ways in which – in both past and present – issues of Antillean identity have been understood and, most importantly, constructed in the textures of literary creation. Herbeck proposes architextual and architectural readings of the works he has selected, and foregrounds not only the construction of spatiality in these but also their recurrent focus on the generative act of writing. LUP’s ‘Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures’ series already contains some of the most searching criticism on Caribbean writing in French published in recent years. I am excited that Architextual Authenticity constitutes a genuinely original and significant addition to this important list.
Charles Forsdick, James Barrow Professor of French, University of Liverpool


Format: Hardback

Size: 239 × 163 mm

344 Pages

ISBN: 9781786940391

Publication: September 22, 2017

Series: Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures 47

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