Australian Journal of French Studies

Madness, Isolation and the Female Condition in Gisèle Pineau’s Writing

Australian Journal of French Studies (2022), 59, (2), 158–170.

Abstract

This article examines themes of madness and mental illness in fictional and non-fictional writing by Guadeloupean author Gisèle Pineau. Madness is an important trope in French Caribbean literature that critiques the enduring legacies of colonization, slavery and forced displacement. It is a prevalent theme in Pineau’s work because her writing is inspired by her parallel career as a psychiatric nurse. The article explores madness from a gendered perspective in her short stories “Ombres créoles” (1988) and “Ta mission, Marny” (2009). Arguing that here, madness is a specifically Antillean condition that both erases the agency of the female protagonists and grants them power to resist, the article then examines how Pineau explores the theme from a metropolitan viewpoint in the autobiographically inspired Folie, aller simple: journée ordinaire d’une infirmière (2010). Through her writing, Pineau bears witness to the ordeals of Caribbean women haunted by the collective trauma of slavery and patriarchal power.

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Author details

WIMBUSH, ANTONIA