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Copyright 1995 Charles H. Rowell. All rights reserved.

Callaloo, 18.2 (1995) 492-505

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Aim Csaire's Cahier d'un retour au pays natal is one of the acknowledged masterpieces of francophone Caribbean literature. A great work seems to require a great man, a hero who can act and speak for an entire people, and indeed the period Cahier inhabits in Caribbean literary history has been referred to as an era of "Heroic Negritude" (Arnold 13368). There is scarcely any scholarship on the long poem which does not refer to it as "epic" and "heroic." What I would like to argue, however, is that these terms are inappropriate, for two reasons. 1 First, they function to smooth out the disruptive quality of the poem by couching it in comfortably traditional categories of genre. And second, since the epic hero is always male and the trajectory of his journey has traditionally been gendered as masculine 2 these generic labels also serve to thwart discussion of the poem's figuration of gender by suppressing the role the feminine plays and reading the poem's figuration of masculinity as "natural." This ends up lending false coherence to the lyrical subject, suggesting an easily identifiable, active narrator moving through time and space, a notion Cahier d'un retour defies. When one examines the way that the poem's complex imagery is gendered, one arrives at a point of reversal of terms, where what was once masculine (the sun) becomes feminine (the moon) and vice versa. This reversal is eventually overturned, yet a fundamental ambiguity remains and is never fully resolved. The poem's ending is both an attempt to rewrite the binary oppositions of masculine and feminine, vertical and horizontal, sun and moon, and a call to transcend a debilitating collective history. By unsettling this symbolic structure--what amounts to a "colonial Imaginary," in Althusserian terms--the poem unsettles the ideology which strove to justify the wrenching history of the African diaspora. Once the poem undermines its own binary imagery and starts to sketch in a third term, one can see that what has been viewed as a sort of phallic negritude, where "negritude as phallus . . . revalorizes the black man" (Scharfman 61), is nothing of the sort. The imposition of such Lacanian terms on the text leads to a reading of colonization and decolonization where the former is figured as emasculating and the latter as "rephallicizing." What I would like to do is to provide a reading which both illuminates the construction of gender in the poem, and shows how attempts to fit the poem into traditional generic concepts (hero and epic) and Lacanian structures (by way of Althusser and Fanon) unintentionally serve to preclude any possibility for female decolonization and to oversimplify the poem's obscurities. By drawing out the [End Page 492] ambiguities of the poem's conclusion I hope to show just how ambitious the poem's decolonizing impulse is, and how difficult its project. 1. Heroic Negritude A. James Arnold has called Aim Csaire's Cahier "the epic of negritude," referring to Ezra Pound's definition of an epic as "a long poem with history in it" (Arnold 168). This definition

is indeed a terse one, as Arnold writes, yet no matter how minimalist Pound's definition may be, it cannot denude the epic of its heroic proportions. This view is certainly not Arnold's alone. Aliko Songolo (in Aim Csaire: Une Potique de la Dcouverte) also calls the speaker of the poem "le pote-hros," not only upholding the notion of heroism but also eliding the distinction between the poet and the speaker of the poem. Indeed, this is one of the temptations Cahier poses. Csaire himself is such an extraordinary figure that his biography occasionally casts a shadow over interpretations of the poem. Yet this urge to read a hero into the work, in light of the textual evidence, is difficult to accept, particularly when one considers Ronnie Scharfman's convincing point that Csaire's poetry "is permeated not only with a sense of the arbitrariness of language but also with doubts as to the very possibility of mediating between the individual and the collective" (3). Certainly the subject of the poem sometimes yearns to be the voice of the people, to be their leader, to singlehandedly decolonize them. However, this posture is not a constant one, and much of the poem strikes intensely personal, idiosyncratic notes which belie the stance of a public, heroic figure. As Eileen Julien has pointed out, the epic form is not one used by women writers, precisely because of its masculinist characteristics: "This hierarchic form is tied to nationalistic agendas and military might, which have been and continue to be, for the most part, provinces of patriarchy" (47). The world of the epic does not resemble that of Cahier, despite moments where heroism is invoked. As Mikhail Bakhtin has written, [t]he epic past is absolute and complete. It is as closed as a circle; inside it everything is finished, already over. There is no place in the epic world for any openendedness, indecision, indeterminacy. (16) However, indeterminacy, openendedness, and a constant interrogation of the past are important characteristics of Csaire's long poem. In a more recent example of scholarship on epic, and one perhaps more appropriate to literature of the African diaspora, Isidore Okpewho shows that "the hero is quite simply a comprehensive symbol of the ideals of human society and the dangers attendant upon such exaggerated expectations" (131). The epic hero has a dual role: as champion of his community he is both a "man of the people" and a superior, noble creature endowed with supernatural powers. This comprehensive duality should not be mistaken for anything like the constant shifts and struggles of the poem's lyrical voice, for the epic [End Page 493] hero's conflicts are the expression of a coherent identity, replete with biography and praise-singers. Nor should the mythic tone and historical references characteristic of Csaire's poem be read as evidence of epic qualities: History for the [traditional oral] artist is both what has actually happened and what is fabled to have happened. For him myth has considerable historical value; because it has been told all too often, it bears the stamp of truth. (Okpewho 66) What is so extraordinary and powerful about Csaire's poem is precisely that it is a story which had not previously been told. And in Csaire's case, this story is being told on the page; it is an extremely written text whose frequently esoteric vocabulary and imagery take it far from traditional oral art forms even while sometimes invoking them. If anything it is the notion of epic that Csaire interrogates in this poem, and this is perhaps a good example of the way that some colonial and postcolonial texts appropriate traditional genres in order to reinvent them. When we turn from these theorists and critics to look at the poem's rhetoric, there is even more reason to avoid these generic labels, however casual their use may be. Perhaps one of the most frequently quoted lines from Cahier is one which places the poet in the position of lighting the way for his people, leading them to freedom: Je viendrais ce pays mien et je lui dirais: / . . . / "Ma bouche sera la bouche des malheurs qui n'ont pas de bouche, ma voix, la libert de celles qui s'affaissent au cachot du

dsespoir." (Csaire 22) Only if this line is taken out of context could the subject of Cahier be seen as speaking continually and successfully as a representative for and of his people. The text itself resists this stance. Not only explicitly, as in "Mon hrosme, quelle farce" (41), but in the way that the passage above is phrased and presented. It is written in the conditional mood and, more importantly, it is placed within quotation marks. When the narrator says he would speak for "you" ("c'est pour vous que je parlerai" [22]), it seems in retrospect to be a naive hope or intention, deflated upon actual arrival in the "pays natal." The triumphant cry, "Et voici que je suis venu!" is followed immediately by the vision of "cette vie clopinante devant moi, non pas cette vie, cette mort . . ." and the word "mort" will be repeated five times in this one stanza. This is a devastating rebuke of the fantasy that "ma bouche sera la bouche des malheurs qui n'ont pas de bouche." Scharfman points out the possibility that in this passage the subject is taking on a Christ-like voice and "by quoting itself as if it were already poetry or gospel, the subject reveals itself as having been confined by a kind of textual grandiosity" (37). This moment of grandiose fantasy is quite different from what Okpewho has described as the typical immodesty of the epic hero: "[T]he hero has an exaggerated notion of his worth. He claims precedence above everyone else, his elders included, and expects others to recognize his greatness" (98). The subject of Cahier only briefly imagines himself as a savior-figure before coming face to face with the morbid [End Page 494] landscape of his island, "o la grandeur piteusement choue" (23). In traditional epic, there is no such bracing self-mockery. 3 Daniel Maximin's novel L'Isol soleil explicitly invokes Cahier as an important intertext, both responding to and reinterpreting Csaire's work, and for this reason I would like to use the novel as another way to comment on the poem. One of the characters in L'Isol soleil explains why a female reader might be frustrated with heroic epic: "Si on coute nos potes, nos rvolutionnaires, nos romanciers et leurs historiens, la seule fonction des femmes noires serait d'enfanter nos hros" (108). It is precisely this question as to the "fonction des femmes noires" in Cahier which will lead us into an examination of the way the poem manipulates gendered imagery. 2. Male and Female Geography From the opening moments of Cahier, what is female appears in the text as a symbol of duplicity: "Puis je me tournais vers des paradis pour lui et les siens perdus, plus calme que la face d'une femme qui ment" (7). A few lines later the phrase "menteusement souriante" will point the reader back to the first mention of "mensonge" and the lying, smiling female face will be established as a trope. This smile provokes the lyrical "je" of the poem into outrage: "on voit encore des madras aux reins des femmes des / anneaux leurs oreilles des sourires leurs bouches / des enfants leurs mamelles et j'en passe: / ASSEZ DE CE SCANDALE!" (32). It becomes clear that the poem's narrator is referring to the smiling face of the "doudou," the stereotypical multresse in her cheerful, French-loving mode about whom the song "Adieu foulards, adieu madras" was written. The speaker's disdain and anger appear to be focused at the perpetuation of this stereotype. However, this may also be an instance of scorn towards the women who, in the complicated colonial history of the French Caribbean, were able to raise their social status through sexual relations with white slaveowners. 4 This moment of hostility perhaps prefigures Frantz Fanon's (in)famous critique of Caribbean women who attempt to "lighten the race" by bedding white men. The notion of duplicitousness, then, is linked to the image of degraded sexuality, and the imagery which is gendered as female in the poem is inscribed along a horizontal line. The multresse is the woman who represents lying down with the colonizer for survival. The city is marked as a degraded landscape, passive, horizontal, mute. "Cette ville plate-tale" is associated with the powerless, faceless crowd which is in turn associated with "une femme" (9-10). In a circular series of comparisons, the subject is as calm as the lying face of a smiling woman, and smiling, scandalous women are like the city which is laid out flat and

passive as the body of a woman, and in this city there is a crowd which is silent and incomprehensible as a woman who would order a hypothetical rain not to fall. Occasionally, what is horizontal is not passive and degraded but warm and fertile as the earth: "toi terre tendue terre / saoule / terre grand sexe lev vers le soleil / . . . la terre o tout est libre / et fraternel, ma terre" (21). The instability of the figuration is not limited to female symbols alone. The poem lurches and leaps back and forth from a dismal, colonized notion of "islandness" to [End Page 495] moments of exalted joy in a pattern which has been described as having three large movements or three acts. Within these larger movements are smaller reversals, ascents and falls. 5 The figuration changes according to the transformations of the subject's viewpoint. At its lowest point, the female is the city, the impoverished hybrid of urban modernism and colonialized squalor--flattened, sprawled, prostrated. In its antithesis, the female represents fertility. Both of these extremes are on a horizontal axis, whether positive or negative, whether they signify fertility or passivity. Not surprisingly, then, what is vertical is usually gendered as male. I would like to focus on one primary and persistent figure of the masculine, "le soleil"--a conventional male symbol in traditional poetic imagery as well as in this poem. The sun appears on the first page as cursed and venereal, a force on high, looking down on the colonized island. This is a gaze which inscribes an invisible vertical line, like a plumb line dropped from the sun to the island, surveying it authoritatively as a policeman would (". . . arpente nuit et jour d'un sacr soleil vnrien" [7]). The metaphorics of verticality are immediately in play here, embodied by conflicting symbols, the most famous of which is the reference to "mes profondeurs hauteur inverse du vingtime tage," or as one of the translations puts it, "in my depths height-deep" (Eshleman and Smith 35). There is a constant up-and-down movement, a vertical axis which is masculinized as one realizes that the speaker's voice is always a male voice. The sun, meanwhile, is infected by an illness, a malady of the colonizer, apparently the result of a contagious coupling, and the implication is that "la terre" or "la ville" has been infected by a diseased phallus. In the second movement of the poem, with the introduction of the one-word sentence "Partir" (20), the register changes. The sun is refigured. The earth, as we have seen, is the female sex raised towards the phallic sun, "la mentule de Dieu," and the sun now has the capacity not to infect but to fertilize, to turn golden that which is under its light (21). The sun will be represented as diseased once again in the poem--"Au bout du petit matin le soleil qui toussotte et crache ses poumons" (28)--but this time the illness is tubercular. These shifts do not end here. Just before the beginning of the third movement, when the speaker calls to the sun with its curly hair like that of a black man ("Ange Soleil, Ange fris du soleil" [36]), he is asking it to help him affect a leap beyond the self-disgust which had permeated the preceding section. This is the pinnacle of the sun as symbol, the moment when it is personified and, most importantly, made into a black angel to help the subject ascend skyward, out of the depths of his colonized state. The vertical axis, at its most inspired, transcendent moments, stands for power, hope and independence. At its most negative it represents the diseased phallus, the colonial gaze, the surveillance and oppression of the colonizer, and the fall downward to despair. 3. Trading Places Once the figural structure is established in the first half of the poem, the language and tone shift in a wave of ambiguous imagery. The gendered figures of sun and moon [End Page 496] are reversed, changed back again, and then upset completely, plunging the poem into periods of instability and culminating in a profoundly obscure ending. The major turning point comes at the famous, much-quoted section about the black man in the streetcar, "le ngre grand comme un pongo" (40). This is the lowest moment for the "je"

of the poem. He has just described the slave market under the guise of a horse market (37), rejected the notion that a glorious African past holds any hope (38), and evoked the despair in the hulls of slave ships (39). In a city streetcar, the speaker of the poem sees a hideous and pathetic black man and smiles along with the white women who sneer at him. Once he realizes his complicity with the disdain of the white gaze, he is as low as he can go, mired in self-hatred, "[c]omme cette ville dans la crasse et dans la boue couche" (41). He becomes completely prostrate, identifying for the first time in the poem with the horizontal position which has up to now been gendered as female. The poem's narrator remains flattened until the imagery of the poem starts to signal the advent of a new order: "je tremble maintenant du commun tremblement que / notre song docile change dans le madrpore" (44). The madrpore is a particularly telling figure to use here. As Samuel Weber has pointed out, it is a term which has caused confusion: "Le madrpore, dont on a longtemps cru qu'il appartenait la flore, est le site d'une erreur: son origine n'est pas vgtale mais animale" (28). The madrpore is a symbol of ambiguity and uncertainty, and it announces that the categories in the poem are shifting, the subject doubling and changing. This is followed by several androgynous figures where masculine and feminine coexist side by side. When the word "silo" appears ("silo o se prserve et mrit ce que la terre a de plus / terre" [46]), we have a symbol whose shape is phallic and yet whose function is womblike, to house ripening grain until it is mature (Scharfman 60). In the passage, "ma ngritude n'est pas une pierre . . ." (46-47), the speaker seems to take on a masculine identity again: ma ngritude n'est ni une tour ni une cathdrale / elle plonge dans la chair rouge du sol / elle plonge dans la chair ardente du ciel / elle troue l'accablement opaque de sa droite patience. (47) Yet, in this one passage, the text both denies an upright phallic shape ("ni une tour ni une cathdrale") and reaffirms it ("sa droite patience") while reiterating a vertical movement from the earth to the sky, from a high tower to deep down in the soil. The earth here is red flesh being penetrated by "ma ngritude," yet because "ngritude" is feminine in French, the masculine movement of the speaker is expressed by a feminine pronoun: "elle plonge dans la chair rouge du sol." The litany of flora and fauna which follows this places the narrator in the role of a Noah figure who "gathers lovingly all the beasts, birds, insects, saps, to shelter them from moral deluge" (Snyder 40). This is indeed the new beginning which the narrator had anticipated, both as the beginning of the end of the world (32) and a rebirth of the self, a self-birthing (34). At the end of this section the imagery becomes explicitly sexual: [End Page 497] viennent les ovaires de l'eau o le futur agite ses petites ttes / viennent les loups qui pturent dans les orifices sauvages du corps l'heure ou l'auberge eliptique se / rencontrent ma lune et ton soleil. (45, my emphasis) Embedded in this passage is the startling reversal of symbols already referred to--at this moment the speaker no longer identifies himself with the masculine sun. He is the moon, and the "tu" of the poem is the sun. For the first time in the poem, masculine and feminine axes are realigned. This new identification continues through the next few stanzas. In the line, "Calme et berce ma parole l'enfant . . . ," the speaker appropriates a maternal posture. When he addresses himself to the light--" frache source de la lumire" (46)--he is speaking to the sun, the source of light whose supply will replenish him in his new identity as moon reflecting light.

On the next page, the symbols of the sun and the moon are explicitly restored to their conventional figuration and the sun becomes male once again: "le coeur mle du soleil," "la fmininit de la lune au corps d'huile" (48). In this stanza, there is a celebration of the notion of reconciliation. However, this realignment and "close concordance" are never so neat and unambiguous as they first seem. 4. "Mon originale gographie" We have seen the gendered imagery suddenly reverse itself, going through a period of change heralded by a metaphorics of instability and androgyny. While the images seem to revert to their initial pattern, there is an element of ambiguity which never goes away. Masculinity is now insisted upon as the speaker of the poem seems to be trying to construct his own identity. This notion of renewal, restructuring and rethinking is underlined by the emphasis on geography. The "je" of the Cahier in redefining himself must also redraw the map of the world since his identity is so closely affiliated with the fragmented, volcanic islands, with the far-flung history of the diaspora, the middle passage, and the triangle inscribed by Africa, France and Martinique. Now the speaker of the poem seems particularly muscular, sending up a "viril" prayer (49), asking for the faith of a sorcerer, for powerful hands, for the temper of a sword. He runs through the gamut of masculine roles, desiring to be "le frre . . . le fils . . . l'amant de cet unique peuple." The insistence and repetitiveness of the male imagery, the very foregrounding of the speaker's virility, signals that the constitution of the subject as masculine is in process, that he is trying singlehandedly to forge a new self, upright and masculine, capable of resisting oppression. When the speaker of the poem intones an ironic and vituperative list of the outrages that he accepts, he includes his own geography, his own version of the world: "mon originale gographie aussi; la carte du / monde faite mon usage . . ." (55-56). "Originale" here suggests a trajectory back to the beginning when earth, sun and moon were in their appropriate places. Yet original also signifies new, something [End Page 498] never seen before. Not only is the narrator's version of the world new, it is also eccentric and strange-the third meaning of the word "original" in French. The speaker of the poem is remaking the map of the world and of the universe as well. The very horizon is coming undone ("l'horizon se dfait, recule et s'largit" [60]), the sun becomes a toy ball ("saute le soleil sur la raquette de mes mains" [64]) and this former symbol of masculine power is no longer adequate ("l'ingal soleil ne me suffit plus" [64]). The speaker's explicit virility and sense of power intensify until they reach perhaps their most blatant image: "Et voici soudain que force et vie m'assaillent comme un taureau . . ." (56). With swords and sorcery at his command, embodied with the force of a bull, the speaker sounds just like a hero leading his people: "Et nous sommes debout maintenant, mon pays et moi . . ." (57). The poem rushes forward and upward towards its resolution, and with the constant vertical imagery and the insistence on standing and rising, "heroic negritude" does indeed seem implacably phallic. 5. Phallic Negritude Standing upright is a metaphor for resistance and survival in the poem, which makes the vertical axis the more strongly privileged one in the figurative scheme. This has led some critics to read the poem's symbolic structure in Lacanian terms: The image of negritude as phallus serves several functions for the subject. As a corrective device, it revalorizes the black man, symbolically castrated throughout the text by the forces of oppression. It is the perfect metaphor for the desired union between the subject and primal forces in nature. (Scharfman 61)

Lacan's notions about phallic power and castration in language are tempting ones to put to use here. But this is a temptation which should be resisted, for several reasons. Lacan's conception of the phallus is a way of describing the subject's relation to language. The phallus is a signifier: "c'est le signifiant destin dsigner dans leur ensemble les effets de signifi, en tant que le signifiant les conditionne par sa prsence de signifiant" (109). The effects of the signified are that man's needs are alienated due to their expression in language. To be castrated in language is a condition of subjectivity; it implies that the speaking subject is incapable of expressing need in such a way that it can be satisfied. The notion that language precedes the subject and that the subject is constructed through language but cannot master language has become a commonplace of poststructuralist theory. It is important to keep in mind that this alienation in language is as true for the colonizer as it is for the colonized. The alienation of those who are deprived of a political speaking voice under the conditions of colonization is quite different from the lack of mastery over language which is at the heart of subjectivity. To use a profoundly linguistic concept as a metaphor for a political one is, in this case, [End Page 499] to risk attributing a kind of mastery to the colonial powers which would place colonial discourse at the mythic "center" of discourse; it would phallicize colonization by endowing it with complete control over language, with the absolute power to generate meaning as though colonial discourse stood somehow outside of language. Yet, "hegemony is a fragile and difficult process of containment," writes John Frow. "Further, there are historically quite distinct degrees of coherence of the 'dominant ideology'" (63). If the colonizing subject were not castrated in language, the dominant ideology would then be perfectly coherent. Fredric Jameson's long article on Lacan which serves as his attempt to reconcile psychoanalytic and Marxist schools of criticism does seem, as Scharfman notes, particularly helpful in the context of Csaire's Cahier. Jameson's intent in "Imaginary and Symbolic in Lacan" is to find a way of reading which would mediate "between social phenomena and what must be called private, rather than even merely individual, facts" (338). He does this by relying on Althusser's definition of ideology as the "'representation' of the Imaginary's relationship of individuals to their Real conditions of existence" (394). It is within representations of the Imaginary relationship of the colonized to the conditions of colonization that a historically grounded notion of alienation can be examined through the Symbolic order of language. The real sticking point of Lacanian theory for feminist writers and theorists is the use of masculine terminology to represent ideas that are supposed to be gender-neutral. Lacan refers to the phallus as not being reducible to "l'organe, pnis ou clitoris, qu'il symbolise" (108), suggesting that the phallus can refer to both male and female bodies. Yet this distinction between the phallus and the penis which Lacanians insist on is surely a tenuous one since it refuses to recognize the way these terms are inseparably associated by a larger culture within which individuals are powerless to dictate meaning. Merely willing it so will not strip the phallus of its male connotations. As Jane Gallop puts it, these Lacanian "attempts to remake language to one's own theoretical needs, as if language were merely a tool one could use, bespeaks a very un-Lacanian view of language" (126). Gallop goes on to say that, as long as the attribute of power is a phallus which can only have meaning by referring to and being confused with a penis, this confusion will support a structure in which it seems reasonable that men have power and women do not. (127) If the purpose of figuring negritude as phallus is to revalorize the black man, one has to ask then where this schema leaves the question of female oppression, female resistance and decolonization and if this reading of negritude does not empower "the black man" in a way which seems "reasonable" while leaving female decolonization aside as a non-issue. But, does Cahier d'un retour really figure negritude as phallus? Do the rising tone and ecstatic imagery, the "arousal of ethnic consciousness" (Arnold 168) at the end of the poem, imply

that the poem is, in fact, getting an erection? If we look closely at the last pages of the poem, the powerful mounting rhythm is seen to be subtended by explosive imagery which insists on the mediatedness of this vertical movement. The axes which have structured the poem's imagery are erupting [End Page 500] as the tension and tone intensify. The repeated images of verticality are interladen with an angry irony, palpable in the repetition of the heavy phrase "c'tait un trs bon ngre," and in the question, "Tenez, suis-je assez humble?" (53) which both tend to weigh down the poem's final flight. When the last lines of the poem finally appear, they are so idiosyncratic and inaccessible that the text ends on a note not of reconciliation but of obscurity, forcing a reconsideration of what came before. The last line of the text reads: "et le grand trou noir o je voulais me noyer l'autre lune / c'est l que je veux pcher maintenant la langue malfique de la nuit et son immobile verrition" (65). In three different translations of the poem, the rendering of the last few words varies from "unmoving flick" to "motionless veerition" and "immutable truth." 6 None of these makes the meaning of the last lines any clearer since Csaire ends the poem with a neologism: Csaire's great lyric about finding a voice, about returning to native ground, strands us, finally, with a made-up, Latinate, abstract-sounding question mark of a word. So much for expectations of direct, immediate linguistic "authenticity." With Csaire we are involved in a poetics of cultural invention. (Clifford 176) It is difficult, then, to agree that "dans le troisime acte, le pote reconcili avec lui-mme et avec son pays conduit son peuple vers la libert dsire" (Songolo 36). At the end of the poem the sun is no longer adequate for the speaker, and he addresses himself to the wind. Bind me to the soil, he asks the wind, strangle me with your lasso of stars to the sky. Rise, dove, rise rise rise. Despite the exuberant upward movement, bounding and strangulation are perplexing images to use to express reconciliation and liberation. The ending of the poem might be read instead not only as a "poetics of cultural invention" but as the attempt to constitute a decolonized subjectivity under a different Imaginary scheme. To return to Althusser's very Lacanian conception of ideology, if the poem maps out an ideology which might be called negritude and in doing so decenters what I would conceptualize as a "colonial Imaginary," then what is its own Imaginary scheme? To answer that question, I find it most useful to turn to the work of Luce Irigaray who has written lengthy critiques of Lacanian psychoanalytic theory and shown what a nonphallocentric Imaginary might look like, while still relying on Lacan's ideas. The most relevant aspect of Irigaray's work here is her insistence that Western philosophy is based on the "logic of sameness." Psychoanalysis, starting with Freud, has defined sexual difference according to phallic logic: Partie prenante d'une idologie qu'il ne remet pas en cause, [Freud] affirme que le "masculin" est le modle sexuel, que toute reprsentation de dsir ne peut que s'y talonner, s'y soumettre. (Irigaray 70) By this masculine standard, the clitoris is a smaller version of the penis, and the little [End Page 501] girl is a "little man." This, of course, allows women to be viewed as the same as men, but inferior. Extending this logic to wider philosophical terms, "[c]ette domination du logos philosophique vient, pour une bonne part, de son pouvoir de rduire tout autre dans l'conomie du Mme" (72, her emphasis). This economy of the same is the engine which powers colonial discourse and colonial self-justification. When the standard of measure is the white European male, the resulting philosophy holds that Africans, including Africans of the diaspora, fall far short of that standard, which, not coincidentally, makes them ripe for the "civilizing mission." From the insistent oppression of this colonial discourse stems what

Fanon calls the "psychoexistential" inferiority complex of blacks, the internalization of racist ideology (9). Fanon's stated aim was to analyze the complex in order to destroy it. Csaire, who was of course a great influence on Fanon, also has this destructive impulse as an aim; his text is linguistically disruptive in the same sense that Irigaray's is: "Irigaray attempts to disrupt symbolic discourse . . . by reimagining the female Imaginary" (Herrmann 22). Csaire's poem with its eruptive, disruptive, denunciatory power aims to explode colonial discourse, the phallogocentric system on the other side of which lies a new map of the world, a different Imaginary. When the speaker of the poem associates himself with the masculine sun, he is filling in the role the colonizer had played. He is not upsetting the structure, but changing the players. In the historical context of the poem's production, this is an extraordinary move. However, as Irigaray puts it, "si [le] projet visait simplement renverser l'ordre des choses--admettons mme que cela soit possible . . .--l'histoire reviendrait finalement encore au mme" (32, my emphasis). Csaire goes further than a reversal of terms: when the sun is removed from its privileged position, the rigid verticalhorizontal structure crumbles. The wind, which the speaker of the poem addresses throughout the last passage, serves as a new metaphor, one which, in this poem, defies being categorized or even defined since it can be felt but not touched, heard but not seen, spoken to as if it were listening: . . . enroule-toi, vent, autour de ma nouvelle croissance / pose-toi sur mes doigts mesurs / je te livre ma conscience et son rythme de chair / . . . / je te livre mes paroles abruptes / dvore et enroule-toi / en t'enroulant embrasse-moi d'un plus vaste frisson / embrasse-moi jusqu'au nous furieux / embrasse, embrasse NOUS . . . (64). Is the wind a voice which can be heard around the world? Is it a reference to oral culture and oral art? A non-material response to the aggressive sharpness of colonizing technology? A holy spirit? A form of resistance which does not imply phallic logic? It is the "radical indeterminacy" 7 of the poem's final stretch which the reader is left with at the end, yet the outlines of something new are sketched in. The poem's troublesome conclusion, with its complexity of image and language, introduces a third and perhaps mediating term, suggesting a new Imaginary which remains to be fully articulated. If we return to L'Isol soleil for a moment, it is interesting to see the [End Page 502] way that Maximin reiterates a Caribbean landscape of three elements and insists on the triangularization of meaning and desire: the sun, the volcano and the sea make up the three terms in Maximin's geography (78). Towards the end of the book "la voie lacte" joins "le soleil" and "la mer" in a more feminized version of the threesome (212). This figuring and refiguring of three terms includes the play of characters who often comprise two men and a woman, reinscribing the threesome who founded "Tropiques," Lon Damas, Aim Csaire, and Suzanne Csaire. Maximin insists on the inclusion of a third term and of a female voice in what I would like to read as a novelistic continuation of Csaire's long poem. It is part of L'Isol soleil's power that it recognizes the movement from two to three terms in Cahier, the triangularization of its imagery. The poem's emphasis on vertical movement and insistence on masculinity should not, then, be read literally as the epic outpouring of a phallic leader, but rather as an attempt to subvert colonial discourse through reimagining the colonial Imaginary. The poem's blatant sexual images and gendered landscapes prove to be unstable and disruptive, suggesting a reading of the poem's masculinity that highlights its constructedness rather than its depiction of a natural process. 6. Conclusion Negritude has long been subject to controversy. Heralded as a pan-Africanist response to colonialism by some, it has been derided as essentialist, globalizing and falsely idealist by others. Eventually, the topic lost some of its argumentative bite; with the distance of time,

negritude has been viewed in its historical specificity. As Clarisse Zimra has noted, "the quest which [negritude] expresses was defined, primarily, according to the socio-political terms of the 1930s" (55). If negritude may be many things to many people, it has surely always been male, from the nearly exclusive maleness of its participants to the supposedly phallic logic of its symbolic order. The question of whether there is a "negritude in the feminine mode," as Zimra puts it, has started to receive its share of scholarly attention. But the classics of negritude, including Csaire's Cahier, have remained strangely untouched. While critics cannot ignore the explicit sexuality of Csaire's metaphors, the construction of both female and male in the text and the significance of gender for the work as a whole has itself been a fairly uncharted landscape. The issues of female oppression and female decolonization tend to be silent spaces in the poem. After all, when the narrator allies himself with other oppressed people--"je serais un homme-juif / un homme-cafre / un homme-hindou-de Calcutta / un homme-de-Harlem-quine-vote-pas" (20)--the major omission on the list of sufferers is "un homme-femme." This is not to say that this absence undermines the text's extraordinary artistic power nor its force as a tool for "decolonizing the mind." However, this is something which stands to be remarked on, particularly if the text is to be taken as the epic of negritude, the blueprint for resistance and liberation. If colonialism was an emasculating experience, how were the "always-already castrated" affected by it? Yet, colonialism was not of course literally emasculating; it [End Page 503] has been figured as such, as the strongest mode of disempowerment some writers can imagine. Exactly what is missing from this schema is a different Imaginary. What the poem attempts to do in fact is to refigure the schema. The upsetting of the binary order and the introduction of the elements of a new one are crucial to the poem's revolutionary power. It is easy to call Cahier an epic: it is a vast, complex and unwieldy text. To refer to it as a "long poem" seems somehow to slight its power. Yet, we need to foreground its unwieldiness, since the poem's difficult form is one of the ways in which it bespeaks an unresolved historical struggle. To try to disinvest Cahier of its heroic status is not to try to weaken the effect of the poem. As Trinh T. Minh-ha points out in another context, to posit a poet(-hero) lighting the way for his people is to suggest a liberation of the masses where "the masses are regarded as an aggregate of average persons condemned by their lack of personality or by their dim individualities to stay with the herd" (13). One of Maximin's characters reiterates this point: "Quelle prtention chez tous ces crivains mles ou ces hros de romans. . . . Et tous ces moi-je toujours seuls face au peuple silencieux" (109). The poem without its epic status and without a hero might not end in as clean and powerful a reconciliation as some of its readers might like, but it ends with the movement of struggle towards resolution. To deprive the poem of its final obscurity and struggle is to underestimate the difficulty of its project. Hedy Kalikoff is a candiate for the Ph.D. degree in comparative literature at the University of Michigan. Currently she is an adjunct professor at Eugene Lang College of the New School for Social Research. Notes 1. This paper came out of discussions with Richard D.E. Burton. My thanks to Richard, and to David Labiosa, Hubert Rast and Ronnie Scharfman for their comments on earlier versions. 2. Teresa de Lauretis shows how the male figure is traditionally associated with narrative movement and the female with narrative closure or static image in the chapter "Desire in

Narrative." 3. Okpewho uses examples of epics from Russian, African, Latin and Greek traditions, among others. 4. This situation led to the differential treatment of free colored males and free colored females, enmiring mulatto women in sexual relations which exploited them while at the same time gave them access to white power. Richard D.E. Burton has demonstrated the importance of this history for understanding the gendered symbolism of political discourse in Martinique. 5. Scharfman has adeptly traced the multiple shifts of the subject's voice and position in her chapter, "The Subject of the Cahier." 6. In translations by Eshleman and Smith, Snyder, and Abel and Goll. 7. "Radical indeterminacy" is what James Clifford calls the "essence of neologism" (177). Works Cited Arnold, A. James. Modernism and Negritude: The Poetry and Poetics of Aim Csaire. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981. Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogic Imagination. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987. Burton, Richard D.E. "'Maman-France Doudou': Family Images in French West Indian Colonial Discourse." Diacritics 23 (1993): 69-90. ----. La Famille coloniale: La Martinique et la mere patrie, 1789-1992. Paris: L'Harmattan, 1994. Csaire, Aim. Cahier d'un retour au pays natal. Paris: Prsence Africaine, 1983. ----. Return to My Native Land. Trans. Emil Snyder. Paris: Prsence Africaine, 1968. ----. Aim Csaire: The Collected Poetry. Trans. Clayton Eshleman and Annette Smith. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983. ----. Cahier d'un retour au pays natal: Memorandum on my Martinique. Trans. L. Abel and Y. Goll. New York: Brentano's, 1947. Clifford, James. The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature and Art. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988. De Lauretis, Teresa. Alice Doesn't. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984. Fanon, Frantz. Peau noire, masques blancs. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1952. Frow, John. Marxism and Literary History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986. Gallop, Jane. Thinking through the Body. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.

Herrmann, Anne. The Dialogic and Difference: "An/Other Woman" in Virginia Woolf and Christa Wolf. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989. Irigaray, Luce. Ce sexe qui n'en est pas un. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit, 1977. Jameson, Fredric. "Imaginary and Symbolic in Lacan: Marxism, Psychoanalytic Criticism, and the Problem of the Subject." Yale French Studies 55-56 (1978): 338-95. Julien, Eileen. African Novels and the Question of Orality. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992. Lacan, Jacques. "La signification du phallus." Ecrits II. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1971. Maximin, Daniel. L'Isol soleil. Paris: Editions de Seuil, 1981. Okpewho, Isidore. The Epic in Africa: Toward a Poetics of the Oral Performance. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979. Scharfman, Ronnie. 'Engagement' and the Language of the Subject in the Poetry of Aim Csaire. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1980. Snyder, Emile. "Aim Csaire: The Reclaiming of the Land." Exile and Tradition: Studies in African and Caribbean Literature. London: Longman Group, 1976. Songolo, Aliko. Aim Csaire: Une Potique de la Dcouverte. Paris: Editions L'Harmattan, 1985. Trinh, T. Minh-ha. Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989. Weber, Samuel M. "Le Madrpore." Potique 13 (1973): 28-54. Zimra, Clarisse. "Negritude in the Feminine Mode: The Case of Martinique and Guadeloupe." The Journal of Ethnic Studies 12 (1984): 53-77.