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Versions of Incommensurability Author(s): Natalie Melas Source: World Literature Today, Vol. 69, No. 2, Comparative Literature: States of the Art (Spring, 1995), pp. 275-280 Published by: University of Oklahoma Stable URL: Accessed: 23/12/2009 01:32
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Versions Incommensurability of
. . . les poetiquesmultiplieesdu monde ne se proposent qu'd ceux-ld seuls qui tentent de les ramasserdans des equivalences n'unifientpas. qui . . . the multiplepoetics of the worldpresent themselves to those alone who attempt to gather them into equivalencesthat do not unify.1 Edouard Glissant, Le discoursantillais

By NATALIE MELAS Comparison as it has come down to us from meththe "comparative od" developedacrossso many emergentfields in the nineteenthcenturyis a highlynormativeprocedure. An ideal or type is posited a priorior derivedempirically from the similarities between various elements; this type in turn becomes the standardor criterionaccordingto which judgmentsof value, of deviation, of inclusion or exclusion are proposed. Comparative literature owes its name to this methodborrowedfrom the naturalsciences, and indeed, some of its early academic practitionersbelieved that they could derivewith scientificrigorthe generallaws and the universalhistoryof world literatureof which idealistscould only dream.2 I begin with this brief evocation of the comparative method because though it may be largelyforgotten in the humanities,it has, for lack of any sustained theoretical reflection on the subject of comparison, never been replaced. Consequently, the comparisonof the culturalexpressionsof different languages,nations,peoples in practiceseems always constrained by an invisible binary bind in which comparisonmust end either by accentuating differencesor by subsumingthem under some overarchingunity.3In the first case, which might more literature," emphasis preciselybe called "contrastive falls on the differential,on the irreducibleparticularityof the workin questionor the nationalcharacis ter it reflects.In the second case similarity underlined and the emphasis falls on the unification of diverse phenomena into general laws or even demonstrationsof the unity of "human"nature.4 Both modes of comparison depend on an initial in generalization the form of a criterion or norm, or either to differentiate to generalize.As deployed one critic puts it, "comparisonis doubly generalizing: at its point of departureand its point of arat Literature CornellUniNatalie Melas teachesComparative versity. She is workingon a book about comparisonand the problemof the multicultural.

rival."5 the currentliterarycriticalmoment, heir At on the one hand to the critiquefrom variousangles of the unity of the literarywork and certainlyof the unity of national character,and on the other hand to the critique,particularly from a postcolonialperspective,of pretensionsto the generalor even to the methodin lituniversal,the aims of the comparative erature or culture seem more than suspect; they seem downright obsolete.6This obsolescence is a symptom of the historical determinationsof criticism;7it suggests too that reflection on the unexplored possibilitiesof comparativestructuresmight also involvehistoricizing contextualizing and various modes of comparison. This essayis a brief excursusinto a mode of comcolonial disposiparisonproducedby a particularly tion of power as describedby FrantzFanon in Black Masks.I will arguethat this text offersa Skin, White that do not unify" descriptionof the "equivalences which Glissant challenges the critic (in the last pages of his magisterialanalysisof the postcolonial Antilles, Le discours antillais,quoted here in the epigraph)to seek as a mode for gatheringtogetherthe multiple poetics of the world. Attemptingto conceive of equivalencesthat do not unify points the way to a practiceof comparisonthat might not synthesize similarities into a norm. My workinghypothesis is that colonialcomparisonconflatestwo modes of comparison, qualitative and quantitative,thus which producing a version of incommensurability differs from our received definition of the incommensurableas "that which cannot be measuredby comparisonfor lack of a common measure,"suggesting instead a definitionalong the lines of "that comparison which cannot measure because its equivalencesdo not unify." as Incommensurability the negation of common ground and thereforeof the very possibilityof comparativerelationis often evoked as a remedyto the excesses of normative or assimilatorycomparison. Rejectingthe claim of the Western scientificmode of knowledgeto judge by criteriainternalto its own modes of knowledge(a rules non-Westernnarrative crucialbasis for the legitimationof Western"cultur-


WORLDLITERATURE TODAY ed purviewof the disengagedcosmopolitan,such a privileged and exterior apprehensionendows cultures with the autonomyof esthetic objects,making them availablein all their enclosed diversityto the In collector'sgaze.11 all fairnessto Lyotard,I should make clear first that the referencesto incommensuCondirabilityI have plucked from ThePostmodern to tionare peripheral the main line of his argument, his and second that, though I have assimilated comments to a culturalrelativistposition that defends the integrityof separatecultures,his interestis not so much in heterogeneousentities as it is in heterogeneous discourses or language games. All the same, despite its emphasison modes of knowledge, offers a panohis example of incommensurability ramic perspective on a heterogeneitymade up of separate,autonomousentities. Lyotard'sprime motive in evokingincommensurabilityseems to be to banish similarityaltogether, as though to punish excessivehomogeneitywith its at opposite. But the similarity issue in the word is of a very particularkind. Incommensurability, deriving from the Latin incommensurabilis, meaning"lackof a common measure"and renderedin dictionarydefinitions as "thatwhich cannot be measuredby comparison,"foregroundsboth the act of measurement and this measurement'sdependence on a common in denominator;incommensurability, other words, inscribes a conjunction between similarity and at value. The similarity issue here is one that has alas ready been instrumentalized a norm; what two entities have in common can be used to measure them against each other or in a largerframework. To try and imagine a comparisonor a setting into relation that is not normativeor assimilatory,one would perhapsfirst want to look for a way of sunfrom the consolideringthe perceptionof similarity dation of a norm. Classicalrhetoricmakes such a distinctionin its separationof comparisoninto two categories:similitudo, qualitativecomparison("Shall I comparethee to a summer'sday?"),and comparatio, quantitativecomparison("Thou art morelovely The and moretemperate").12 conceit in these examsonnet 18, ples, the first two lines of Shakespeare's is preciselyto scramblethe two rhetoricalmodes of is comparison so that comparatio turned on similitude, converting the similarity grounding the metaphoricalequivalencebetween the beloved and a summer day into the common denominatorunderlyinga measurementby comparison.Comparatio can only occur in isotopic context, determining value accordingto rigidlydefinedrealms;it enforces the comparisonof apples with apples and oranges on with oranges. Similitudo, the contrary,depends on metaphor's transgressionof isotopic contexts and encouragesthe comparisonof apples with objects much furtherafield than oranges. Comparatio enforces preexisting similarities,whereas similitudo

al imperialism") Jean-Francois Lyotard, for in, stance, arguesthat traditionalculturesand modern cultures are incommensurable,each governed by "rules [that] are specific to each particularkind of He knowledge."8 concludes that it is therefore"impossible... to judgethe existenceor validityof narrative knowledge on the basis of scientific knowledge and vice versa; the relevant criteria are different.All we can do is gaze in wondermentat the diversity of discursive species."9Attractive as this vision of radicallydiscreteand autonomousheterogeneitymay be as palliativeto the assimilatory excessesof comparison,it exposes severalproblems. For one thing, comparison not so much overcome is as it is inverted:a judgmentof incommensurability is still one based on comparisonand thereforeon a of criterion,only its resultis the determination contrast rather than similarity, absolute difference rather than unity. Since comparison determines both what is inside and what is outside its compass, it is hard to distinguish, structurallyat least, between what is above compare,what is beneathcompare, or what is somewherebeyond or outside compare. To posit discourses or cultures as radically separateentities that do not conform to the same laws does not per se protect them from a judgment of value or the deploymentof a norm, since incomparabilitycan be a mark of superior or inferior worth. When Lord Macauley,for instance, declares in a famousminute that he has "certainly nevermet with any Orientalistwho venturedto maintainthat the Arabicand Sanscrit (sic) poetry could be compared to that of the great European nations," he means for that incommensurability indicate infeto rior"worth."10 Whateverfunctionaldifferencemight obtain between, let us say, Macauley'sincomparability as "thatwhich cannotbe compared"and Lyotard'sincommensurability "thatwhich cannot be as measured comparison,"the point remains that by both rely on comparisonto determinewhat is beyond compare. To say that a judgmentof incommensurability is itself a judgment arrivedat through comparisonis also to indicatethat such a judgmentreservesa position or at least a point of view for the comparatist outside the comparison. Lyotard's very phrase, "gaze in wondermentat the diversityof discursive species,"suggeststhe possibilityof a distancedand panoramicperspectiveon a vast arrayof heterogeneous systems, a position from which, one might add, the observercould just as easily gaze acquisitively as in wonderment.The equivalenceor common ground withdrawn from the objects under in comparison reappears the very stance of the comthe paratist: objectshave nothingin common buthis unifiedvision. What remainsunexaminedis the location from which the comparison is offered. As Bruce Robbinspoints out regardingthe disinterest-



posits new resemblances,stretchingthe limits of a code. To combine them, as Shakespeare does, violates the ground rules of both comparisons:it is to compareapples to orangesand to measure according to strict categories an equivalencewhose very those categories.While compapoint is to transgress rators measure by comparisonis clearlybound by historical,discursive,and institutionalfactors,since it determinesthe value and legitimacyof basic syson tems of order,13 similitudo, the contrary,flaunts the flexibilityof existingcategories,though its intelligibilitytoo dependsin the final analysison cultural norms.14 Thus, though apparentlyin opposition to each other, these two modes of deployingsimilarity are not by any means mutuallyexclusive.It is outside the scope of my essay to explore this complex issue in greatdetail. Here I want merelyto markthe and and differencebetween similitudo comparatio the in importanceof their complementarity orderto attend more carefullyto their conflation in Fanon's descriptionof Antilleancomparison. The versionof incommensurability which posits a radical separation between autonomous systems seems problematicin a colonial context simply because colonialismis a complex of social, economic, and cultural practices predicated precisely on the eradicationof autonomous realms. Subsumingthe globe under its law, it sets all differencesinto relation with Europeanmetropolitan powersas the economic center and the culturalstandard.Here Lyoin tard's definition of incommensurability terms of systems or laws ratherthan objects takes on a parhe ticularresonance.In TheDifferend writesthat the is criterionfor incommensurability "the impossibility of subjectingthem [phraseregimens]to a single Colonialismis law (except by neutralizing them)."15 indeed the impositionof a single law, at least in the cultural realm, for the civilizing mission brings the into everything comparison; world it imaginesis composed, if one may say so, only of apples. Howdenies inever, while this unlimited comparability as commensurability startingground, incommensuof rability,I will argue, becomes a product colonial comparisons.Colonialismmay, to varyingdegrees, neutralize the differences that distinguished coloeffects nized cultures,but a whole set of differential takestheirplace. The demand colonial society makes on the black the man, particularly black man from the Antilles, where no original culture survived colonialism,

deemed his society inferior. Indeed, the civilizing mission, predicated on an evolutionaryteleology that has determinedwhitenessthe culturalstandard, necessarilymakes that culture availableto acquisition, to general dissemination.But, along the way, on his journeyto the metropolis,the evoluewill encounter in racial differencean insuperableobstacle to assimilation: "L'Antillais va en Franceafin de qui se persuaderde sa blancheury trouve son veritable visage" (The Antilleanwho goes to France to convince himself of his whitenessfinds there insteadhis true face; PiV, 145n). The black man finds himself doubly bound by the contradictoryinjunction of white culture:you must be like me, you can't be like me. This paradoxcan be formulatedas the internally necessarycontradictionof a certain structureof identity,as David Lloyd shows: "The process of assimilation. . . requiresthat which definesthe difference between the elements to remain over as a In residue."18 order for white culture to remain itfrom the black. Short self, it must be differentiated of undoing the superiorityand integrity of white culture, the black man thereforecannot, by definiwhiten. The residue of initial diftion, figuratively ferentiation blackness must remain. What emerges starkly from this paradox is the necessaryassociationbetween qualitativeand quantitative comparison,similitudo and comparatio. The bounding of particulardomains accordingto similarity(the black,the white) is converteddirectlyto a standardof comparisonwhich disposesobjectshierarchically(the white as standard);if the realm of similitudeis breached,the standardof comparison founders. This production of residual difference of may be characteristic all structuresof identity,as Lloyd claims, but it seems to me peculiarlyperverted in the colonial context, because the culture of colonialismclaimsuniversality the groundsof an on explicitly comparativeevaluation.Such an englobing standardcannot on the one hand be identified with particular people that is, revertfrom concept or trope of whitenessto actualwhite people without weakening its generalizingforce, but on the other hand it cannot extend to those it excludes without losing its authorityto differentiate. The assimilatedblack man or evolueis caughtbetween his acceptanceof whitenessas a transcendentuniversal quality and his encounterwith whiteness as simple and bruteskin pigmentation. According to Fanon, what results for the colonized is an existence caught in differential Frantz Fanon asserts in Peau noire> comparimasquesblancs, is ou to "blanchir disparaitre" (whitenor disappear).16 son. Fanon elaborates his concept by stating his Heeding the call of assimilation,the evolueendeav- "first truth": ors to acquire French civilizationthrough educaLes negres sont comparaison. Premiereverite. Us sont standtion, language,culture, behavior.From his17 comparaison, c'est-a-dire qu'a tout moment ils se point on the distant islands, he takes whiteness preoccupent d}auto-valorisationet d'ideal du moi. as figuratively the sign for the most advancedstage Chaquefois qu'ilsse trouventen contactavec un autre, il est questionde valeur,de merite.Les Antillaisn'ont of the civilization whose universal standard has



pas de valeur propres,ils sont toujourstributariesde de rapparition l'Autre.(PiV,191) Firsttruth.They are comparNegroes are comparison. ison, that is, at every moment they are preoccupied with auto valorization with the Ego ideal.Whenever and they are in contactwith another,there is concernwith value, merit. Antilleanshave no propervalue;they are of to alwaystributaries the apparition the Other. The stark assertion "Negroes are comparison" by itself unsettles both the tropic (similitudo)and evaluative {comparand)grounds of comparison in a move that seems to me characteristic in various ways of Noththe entire text of Peau noire, masquesblancs.19

"Moi grand l'Autre." que plus ainsi: se Lacomparaison antillaise, contre, presente par Blanc de Moidifferent l'Autre (PN, 194) himself theWhite to does The Martinican not compare as God, but compares leader, man,considered father, underthe himselfto his similars [otherMartinicans] can An Whiteman'spatronage. Adlerian comparison in manner: be schematized thefollowing than "Ego greater theOther" itself in The Antillean presents comparison, contrast, thus: White from Egodifferent theOther As Lloyd elaborates,this revisedAdleriancomparison places one term above, "self-identical, the identity:white."This elemetaphorof metaphorical vation of the white man to "the universallyrepresentative man," however, produces a relation among the blacks of "pure difference,""a suspenAs sion in perpetualcomparison."21 Lloyd's choice of words makes clear, the element which Fanon adds to the Adlerian comparison, "White,"funcas tions at once and indistinguishably metaphor,inand voking the similarityof similitudo as a universal If standard,setting the norm of comparatio. the distinction between these modes of comparisonfueled conceit in sonnet 18, the collapse of Shakespeare's mode a that distinctionhere characterizes particular of colonial comparison. Adlerian comparison defeelof scribesthe overcompensation an individual's directaccess (via comparof inferiority through ings ison) to a "governingfiction" or model. Since the Antilleancannot enterinto comparisondirectlywith the white standard,he can only measurehimselfby it in comparisonwith others like him, other blacks. Similaritysuch as it emerges here is construed as difference from difference. The Martinican can compare himself to the white only with respect to his difference from the differences of others like himself.Moreover,the termsunderthe bar are necessarilyplural,but the comparisonin which they enone gage alienatesand differentiates from the other indefinitely.The equivalencesbetween Martinicans indeed cannot ever unify so long as they are fixed under the bar of difference.Antillean comparison subproduces, strictly speaking, incommensurable jects subjects who, despite their total imbrication in a process of comparison,can never be fully measured by it- and rather than fixing them into aulaunches tonomous realms,that incommensurability flux. them insteadinto a differential A similarityconstitutedas differencefrom difference can never coalesce into a standardand there-

ing in the sentence's structureor its context directs or us with any certaintytowarda metaphorical a litis eral reading.This undecidability crucialin that it in participates the erosion of the differencebetween figurative comparisonand evaluativecomparison.Is the copulaof the verb to bebindingNegroes comand the parisona metaphorical equivalence: Negroes are "like"comparison? What might it mean to be like comparison that is to say, like likeness or like The sentence loses nothing of its vertigoif likening? we read the copula as a statement of identity, for how can we think our way around a person being identicalto the process of identificationitself rather than to somethingelse, an ego ideal, for instance. The matWhat could it mean to be comparison? ter is complicated by the plural subject, "Nefor groes,"20 while we might at the limit imagine an individualcaughtin the processof comparison,how do we conceivea collectivityall at once and together in identity with comparison?The pluralizationof the subject of comparisonis crucialhere, since the thrustof this whole passageis to reviseAdlerianego psychologybased on the individualto what Fanon insists in the Martinicancase is fundamentallyan inferiority complex rooted in the social neurosisresulting from colonialism's destroying any "proper value"for the Antillean.As Fanon puts it: "La societe antillaiseest une societe nerveuse,une societe Done nous sommes renvoyesde l'in'comparaison'. dividu a la structuresociale" (Antilleansociety is a neuroticsociety, a society of comparison.Hence we are sent back from the individualto the social structure; PN, 192). Just as colonial ideology defines an so unlimited field for comparability, too its effects exceed individualbeings and come to shape whole socioculturalcomplexes. The consequent disjunctions areinternalto the processof comparisonitself. In order to distinguishAntillean social neurosis from Adlerianindividualneurosis, Fanon produces a schemafor the comparison has in mind: he Le Martiniquais se compare au Blanc,considere ne pas a commele pere,le chef,Dieu, maisse compare son semblable le patronage Blanc.Une comparaisous du sonadlerienne schematise la maniere se de suivante:

MELAS fore producea measurement comparison.In this by Differencehere lies its claim to incommensurability. is not the radicalseparationof singularentities but the differential effect of an impossibleidentification. There is no positionfor the comparatist outside, beyond the objects under comparisonfrom which to on gaze down in wonderment; the contrary,the Antillean comparatistspeaks from within, or even in the guise of, the comparison.In its very extremity, we the versionof incommensurability can discernin Fanon's analysisof Antilleancomparisonpermitsus to graspwith some precisionwhat equivalencesthat do not unify might be and what sorts of forms an engaged or even imbricated comparatism might take. While the paradox of colonial racism provides one mode of conceivingof equivalencesthat do not unify, the extension of such equivalences to the practiceof comparingcultures or literatureswould requirea full elaboration.As a first step in this direction, one might note that the Martinicanpoet, novelist, and theorist EdouardGlissant'senigmatic directivewhichhoversover this essay as an epigraph ("the multiple poetics of the world present themselves to those alone who attempt to gather them into equivalences that do not unify") suggests a of transvaluation the kind of colonial comparison Fanon outlines. If we can see in Fanon the West's englobing comparisonoverreachingitself and collapsingonto its colonizedsubjects,then Glissant,to use one of his words, "relays"the momentum of this collapseto its logical conclusion, "l'eparsinfini de la Relation"(the infinite dispersalof Relation).22 If the colonial comparisontips measureinto incommensurability subsumingall similarityinto comby paratio'sstandard,conjuringa world that would be all apples,then perhapswe might imaginethe world Glissantprojectsas one in which the of "Relation" In balance tips over into similitudo. this disposition of equivalences,a transversalsequence of similariwithout ever unities and conjunctionsproliferates comparisonhere cannot meafying into a standard; sure because it gathers equivalences that do not unify. Insteadof the panoramaof multiple,discrete, and autonomous systems Lyotard envisages, Glissant's "eparsinfini de la Relation"presentsthe extension of one, internally multiplying,incommensurablecode.
1EdouardGlissant,Le discours antillais,Paris, Seuil, 1981, p. 466. My rather literal translation.Michael Dash's translation of readsas follows:"... the proliferation visionsof the world is meant only for those who try to make sense of them in terms of Caribbean that are not to be standardized." similarities Discourse, Pressof Virginia,1989, p. 254. Dash's Charlottesville, University emphasis. 2The methodin its of to application literature the comparative scientific guise is associated with, for instance, Ferdinand


Brunetiere HutchesonMacaulayPosnett.For a summary and of this view at the turn of the century,see CharlesMills Gayley, "WhatIs Comparative Literature?" Atlantic 92 Monthly, (1903), the Literature, Early Years: pp. 56-68; reprintedin Comparative An Anthology Essays,eds. Hans JoachimSchulzand PhillipH. of Rhein, Chapel Hill, Universityof North CarolinaPress, 1973, pp. 85-108. 3Anna Balakian's presentationfor the panel at the MLA at which this paperwas deliveredwas a spiritedappealfor generalin izing and unifyingcomparison view of what she sees as the divisive and separatistemphasis on culturaldifference(see this issue of WLT,pp. 263-67). The first questionerattemptedto makeof my presentation opposingview. I deflectedthe questhe tion then, partlybecause I have neitherthe inclinationnor the sex to engage in the Oedipalagons of institutionalgenerations and partlybecause, generationally least, this isn't my fight in at the first place. As I attempt to outline here, where a previous generationset the disciplinarydebate between generalistsand the particularists, cosmopolitanistsand provincialists, question now seems to centernot on what the ends of comparison ought to be but on whethercomparison a viableoperation all. is at 4In the late fiftiesthese two modes of wereroughcomparison literaly coincidentwith positionsin the debate on comparative ture held respectively the Frenchand Americanschools. See by Rene Wellek,"The Crisisin Comparative in Literature," ProceedingsoftheACLAII, vol. 1, 1959, pp. 149-59. 5AdrianMarino, et de Paris, Comparatisme theorie la litterature, PUF, 1988, p. 243; my translation. 6 Among recent appealsfor reconceptionof the discipline,see for instanceEdwardSaid, who, in Culture Imperialism and (New of York,Knopf, 1993, pp. 43-61), exploresthe development the literature of disciplineof comparative againstthe background the and suggestsreplacing concurrentconsolidationof imperialism the exclusiveand idealizingpracticeof comparison with a mode theoretical of "contrapuntal" elaborareading.For a provocative tion of the challengesemergentliteratures pose to the monumentalizing function of comparativeliterature,see Wlad Godzich, and in Literature Comparative Literature," TheCom"Emergent on eds. parativePerspective Literature, ClaytonKoelb and Susan Noakes,Ithaca,N.Y., CornellUniversity Press, 1988, pp. 18-36. of For a multifaceted consideration the disciplinefroma feminist Feminist with Engagements Comparaperspective,see Borderwork: tive Literature, MargaretHigonnet, Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell ed. released UniversityPress, 1994. The latest Reporton Standards Literature Association suggestsreby the AmericanComparative formsroughlyalong the lines towardwhich these and othercritics point. 7SusanBassnett,in her Comparative Literature: Critical A Introduction(Oxford, Blackwell, 1993), makes an interestingargument for the link between the concurrentdevelopmentsof nationalism in the competition among nations and the rise of literature.It is, accordingto her, preciselybecause comparative literature not fulfillthe functionof consolidating did comparative a national tradition in competitionwith other nations in the of United Statesthat this countrybecamethe vanguard comparative literature'smost generalizingand idealizing aspect. She points out that comparativeliteratureoutside Europe is often framedas the propermethodfor buildinga nationveryexplicitly al literature. 8Jean-Francois A Condition: Report on Lyotard,ThePostmodern trs. Knowledge, Geoff Benningtonand Brian Massumi,Minneof apolis,University MinnesotaPress, 1984, p. 23. 9Ibid., 26. p. 10 Minute addressed by Lord Macauley to Lord Bentinck, in Governor Generalof India,2 February 1835;reprinted Imperied. alism:TheDocumentary Civilization, Philip History Western of D. Curtin,New York,Walker,1971, p. 53. 11 Bruce Robbins, "ComparativeCosmopolitanism,"Social Text,31/32 (1992), p. 56. 12 a discussionof this distinction,see Paul Ricoeur,La meFor vive,Paris,Seuil, 1975, pp. 236-37. taphore


in the cultural definition of race. My approachdiffers from this Lloyd'schieflyin that he approaches passagein Fanon to ilwhereasIstructureof assimilation, luminatethe metaphorical forgive the chiasmus seek in it insight into the assimilatory of structure comparison. 19 this Time preventsme from elaborating analysisfully. Peau blancs noire,masques deploysmultiplediscoursesto diagnoseand cure the problemsrevealedin racialassimilation is a text that (it but aims not only to interpret to change, and it aims to do this of both throughanalysisand throughpoetic transformation voice and language).On one registerthis involvesthe thoroughgoing evaluationsof the black man (especially critiqueof comparative in psychology);on anotherregisterit involvesan extraordinary both of of and anguished language performance the metaphorical In racismand of negritude. this sense, the text seemsto me to exof conjunction tropicand evaluapressmost fullythe murderous tion comparison. 20 turnsthe I The only Englishtranslation knowunaccountably plural "les negres" into the singular"the Negro." See Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, WhiteMasks, tr. CharlesLam Markmann, New York, Grove, 1967, p. 211. The translationis generally haveresultedin interestingsound,but some of its idiosyncrasies with respectto particularly ly inaccuratecriticalappropriations, the title of the much-commented chapterrenderedin Englishas from the Frenchoriginal"L' "The Fact of Blackness" experience vecue du noir." 21 Lloyd,p. 84. 22 Glissant,p. 153.

13See especially Michel Foucault, Les mots et les choses, Paris, Gallimard, 1966, preface, chapter 1 section on "Les quatres similitudes," and chapter 3 section on "Pimagination de la ressemblance." 14 Deborah Durham and James Fernandez go so far as to argue that understanding metaphor not only presumes a shared culture but constitutes it: "[The creation of metaphor is] ... a joint recognition of these shared understandings- that is, culture in a fundamental sense." "Tropical Dominions: The Figurative Struggle over Domains of Belonging and Apartness in Africa," in Beyond Metaphor: The Theoryof Tropesin Anthropology,ed. James

Fernandez,Stanford,Ca., StanfordUniversityPress, 1991, p. 196.
15 Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Differend:Phrases in Dispute, tr.

GeorgesVan Den Abbeele,Minneapolis, Universityof Minnesota Press, 1988, p. 128. 16 FrantzFanon, Peaunoire,masques blancs, preface& postface by FrancisJeanson,Paris,Seuil, 1952, p. 100. Henceforthcited in the text as PN. My translation. 17 maintainthe masculine 1 pronounthroughout,as Fanon reserves this experienceof assimilationspecificallyto Martinican in men. The questionof genderdifference structures compariof elaboration. a son, colonialor otherwise, requires separate 18 David Lloyd, "RaceUnder Representation," Literary Oxford Review,1-2 (1991), p. 76. 1 havebenefitteda greatdeal fromthis essay'sdiscussionof Fanon alongwith other authorsin an argument for the conjunctionof the narrative self-formation, of the of structure metaphor, the constitution the judgingsubject and of

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