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The Blank Beach: Sand as Material Memory in the Caribbean

Charly Verstraet, The University of Alabama at Birmingham

October 26, 2022 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · 111 East Pyne

Department of French and Italian

This talk challenges the literary representation of the Caribbean beach as an empty, untouched space by examining Martinican writer Patrick Chamoiseau’s L’empreinte à Crusoé (2012). It notably considers how Chamoiseau responds to the colonial and exotic fictionalization of the Caribbean shore through the myth of Robinson Crusoe. Following Deleuze’s conceptualization of the blank page, I argue that Chamoiseau reimagines the beach from an empty space to a socially constructed one with narratives of colonialism and slavery. This talk also sketches the function of the artist based on the compelling metaphor of mother-of-pearl, which turns a grain of sand into a gem. In the same vein, I contend that Chamoiseau transforms Daniel Defoe’s celebrated novel from relating the trauma of the Middle Passage into an aesthetic literary object, linking memory to the landscape, social justice to literature.

RSVP: If you are interested in attending this event, please email keggers@princeton.edu for a copy of Charly Verstraet’s draft chapter, “The Blank Beach: Sand as Material Memory in the Caribbean,” which will be discussed.

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