"Don’t Trust the Author: Suspect Texts in Édouard Glissant’s Tout-monde."
Romanic Review 106.3-4 (2014): 361-80
Winner of the 2015 NeMLA Caribbean Studies Essay Award
This essay examines Glissant’s controversial 1993 novel, Tout-monde, where the author’s disorienting, self-reflexive formal practices provoked highly negative responses from critics. Glissant was accused of proffering blithely optimistic assessments of urgent political and economic situations: of writing badly, and of not taking Martinique's problems seriously enough.
My article takes a different approach. I explore precisely how Glissant subverts the authority of his protagonists, his narrators, the author figure, and even the seemingly reliable literary device of the epigraph in Tout-monde. By looking closely at the text, I tease out the implications of Glissant's radical destabilization of representational hierarchies and generic categories, and explore what he is saying (or not saying) about the postcolonial author as an authoritative, trustworthy figure.
Situating the book in the wider context of Glissant’s critical and aesthetic oeuvre, my analysis demonstrates that his experimental formal procedures are far from gratuitous and raise questions with trenchant import. I illustrate how Tout-monde's complex, unpredictable literary style undercuts inflexible visions of identity and culture, while simultaneously interrogating restrictive notions of aesthetic value, duty, and order.