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Title: Sonorities: Decolonizing Voice in Post-1945 Caribbean Literature and Media
Authors: Fecu, Yanie
Advisors: Baer, Ben C
Gikandi, Simon
Contributors: Comparative Literature Department
Keywords: aural
Caribbean literature
Caribbean studies
Subjects: Caribbean studies
Caribbean literature
Black studies
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: My dissertation, Sonorities: Decolonizing Voice in Post-1945 Caribbean Literature and Media, examines literary, musical, and technological turns to noise during the uneven spread of decolonization. I claim that the notion of voice as shorthand for intelligibility and agency is simultaneously overused and under-examined in cultural studies of marginalized groups. I consider how the development of new audio technologies raised questions about the ontological difference between live and recorded performance. My thesis posits the rich history of black diasporic engagements with disruptive sound as a key site for the contestation of liveness. I argue that Caribbean cultural producers experimented with what I term vocal labor: a range of formal aesthetic strategies with a political charge. I draw on postcolonial theory and media studies to investigate works by Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Wyclef Jean, and Edwidge Danticat. My first chapter takes up the neglected figure of the crowd in Césaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal. I argue that although the narrator wants to elicit a revolutionary cry from the impoverished masses, he struggles to hear and interpret the utterances they produce. I draw on crowd theory to explore how Césaire dismantles the primacy of the lyric “I” speaker. Next, I consider the B.B.C. radio program Caribbean Voices and Fanon’s involvement with the Algerian resistance to address audience involvement and the radio’s assimilationist and revolutionary functions. I contend that two programs with opposing goals ultimately supported similar results: the ascendancy of nationalist activism. My third chapter brings together musical and digital dissonance through readings of Brathwaite’s “video” poems. I trace how jazz ensembles become a model for the relationship between individual artists and their communities. The final chapter focuses on Haitian refugees and the extralegal procedures of detention centers through an analysis of Wyclef Jean’s audio-engineering techniques and lyrics alongside Danticat’s use of speech and silence in her memoir Brother, I’m Dying. Through close readings of prose and poetry in French, English, and Haitian Creole alongside radio transcripts and audio recordings, I demonstrate how artists deployed vocal labor to reimagine the perceptual through and as the political.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Comparative Literature

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