Processes of Cultural Transfer in 19th-Century Literature: The Caribbean within the Context of the Cultural Radiance of Europe, Exemplified by France and Spain (1789-1886)
The project aims at identifying the cultural modes of action displayed by various colonial systems of dominance. The focus is on a comparative approach to processes of transfer that unfold across the center-periphery axis, processes in which both sides are actively involved as subjects within a context of dynamic interaction. Literary forms of representation are positioned within the broader context of the circulation of culture and knowledge. A comparison between the francophone and hispanophone Caribbean reveals differences in the reception, absorption, and transculturation of discourses prevalent in the respective mother countries at the time, as well as the repercussions these differences had on perceptions of the Other in the metropolis.
The research rests on two hypotheses:
- The pronounced cultural radiance and cohesive power of France is owed to its capability to integrate the colonial Other, and to undergo transformations itself as it is faced with that Other. This is exemplified by the reorganization of knowledge and the institutionalization of that reorganization in the early 19th century, particularly when ethnology emerged as a scholarly discipline.
- The loss of a culturally integrative center in the case of the Spanish colonies has positive effects on the productivity of colonial literature in that it fosters the search for new points of reference and new networks, and thus triggers a multirelationality that increasingly leaves its mark on Caribbean literature. “Writing between the worlds” thus leads to the emergence of literary expressions that have been aptly characterized as foundational fictions (Doris Sommer), yet whose classification as national literature is a problematic issue.