Clear Word and Third Sight

Folk Groundings and Diasporic Consciousness in African Caribbean Writing

Clear Word and Third Sight

New Americanists

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Book Pages: 248 Illustrations: Published: October 2003

Author: Catherine John

Caribbean Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

Clear Word and Third Sight examines the strands of a collective African diasporic consciousness represented in the work of a number of Black Caribbean writers. Catherine A. John shows how a shared consciousness, or “third sight,” is rooted in both pre- and postcolonial cultural practices and disseminated through a rich oral tradition. This consciousness has served diasporic communities by creating an alternate philosophical “worldsense” linking those of African descent across space and time.

Contesting popular discourses about what constitutes culture and maintaining that neglected strains in negritude discourse provide a crucial philosophical perspective on the connections between folk practices, cultural memory, and collective consciousness, John examines the diasporic principles in the work of the negritude writers Léon Damas, Aimé Césaire, and Léopold Senghor. She traces the manifestations and reworkings of their ideas in Afro-Caribbean writing from the eastern and French Caribbean, as well as the Caribbean diaspora in the United States. The authors she discusses include Jamaica Kincaid, Earl Lovelace, Simone Schwarz-Bart, Audre Lorde, Paule Marshall, and Edouard Glissant, among others. John argues that by incorporating what she calls folk groundings—such as poems, folktales, proverbs, and songs—into their work, Afro-Caribbean writers invoke a psychospiritual consciousness which combines old and new strategies for addressing the ongoing postcolonial struggle.


“John’s contribution to literary studies and postcolonial studies is her very utterance and substantiation of the clear word as an imperative ‘tool of unity and weapon against oppression’ for the African diasporic community, both in its life and in its art.” — Gena Chang-Campbell , Caribbean Studies

"[A]n inspiring addition to a growing literary field. . . ." — Kate Wright, English

"[T]his [book] is written by a scholar of great promise in her lucid and often elegant writing, her tireless scholarship and the intellectual courage of taking this on." — Nancy R. Crillo , Symploke

"The long-awaited re-examination of some of the writings that collectively fall under the heading of negritude has brought us this study. It is well worth the wait. . . . [T]his study is thorough and informative. It is also provocative, and that's to its credit." — Keith Q. Warner , Research in African Literatures

“Clear Word and Third Sight casts new light upon the argument of alternative consciousness by using relatively unknown writers and poets, particularly from the English and French West Indies, along with better known diasporic and American writers. It will be of significant interest to scholars concerned with discourses of difference rooted in notions of being and understanding that are not Western or Euro-centered.” — Percy C. Hintzen, author of West Indian in the West: Self-Representations in an Immigrant Community

“Clear Word and Third Sight itself offers clarity and vision in a new and insightful reading of African diaspora literatures. Catherine A. John offers a necessary revisiting of negritude, a confidence in her examination of coloniality and gendered identity, and an embrace of magic and spirit and poetry." — Carole Boyce Davies, Florida International University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Catherine A. John is Assistant Professor of African Diasporic Literature at the University of Oklahoma.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Alternate Consciousness in the Diaspora 1

1 Paris in 1956: Negritude and Cultural Discourse 21

2 Colonial Legacies, Gender Identity, and Black Female Writing in the Diaspora 43

3 Negritude and Negativity: Alienation and "Voice" in Eastern Caribbean Literature 74

4 Diaspora Philosophy, French Caribbean Literature, and Simone Schwarz-Bart's Pluie et vent sur Telumee Miracle 114

5 The Spoken Word and Spirit Consciousness: Audre Lorde and Paule Marshall's Diasporic Voice 158

Afterword 203

Notes 211

Bibliography 227

Index 237
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3222-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3232-9
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