Re-envisioning negritude: historical and cultural contexts for Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Emma Catherine Thompson Howell (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Cybelle McFadden

Abstract: This thesis seeks to expose and discredit a perceived misconception that understood the Negritude movement as one, relatively uniform concept. An oversimplified, homogeneous view of Negritude at times appears to contradict itself, leading critics to dismiss the movement's relevance and/or standing in diaspora studies. The extensive intellectual relationship and personal friendship between Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor underscores many of the similarities that allowed for the collaboration that started the movement. A detailed analysis of Césaire and Senghor's relationships to Negritude, however, illustrates significant differences in each poet's perception of the movement. I examine the conditions in early twentieth-century Paris that marked it as a cross-cultural center of diasporic literary production. Many critiques of Negritude do not take into account the importance of the historical and cultural contexts surrounding the birth of the movement, when in fact, context is the essence of Negritude's formation. I analyze the conceptions of Negritude found in Césaire's Cahier d'un retour au pays natal and Senghor's Chants d'Ombre and Hosties noires and discuss the reasons behind their intrinsic differences, which are also contextually centered. I argue that Negritude not only bears a historical importance, but also continues to carry significance in present-day Francophone and diaspora studies. The movement led to a growing unrest over colonization and Western supremacy that eventually resulted in independence movements in Africa and departmentalization in the Antilles. It remained a point of contention after decolonization and endures as a present force in the background of both spaces.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2012
Aimé Césaire, Diaspora studies, Francophone studies, French literature, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Negritude
Negritude (Literary movement)
French literature $x Black authors $x History and criticism
Ce´saire, Aime´
Senghor, Le´opold Se´dar, $d 1906-2001

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