Disenchanting Les Bons Temps

Identity and Authenticity in Cajun Music and Dance

Disenchanting Les Bons Temps

Post-Contemporary Interventions

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Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: Published: November 2002

American Studies, Cultural Studies, Music

The expression laissez les bons temps rouler—"let the good times roll"—conveys the sense of exuberance and good times associated with southern Louisiana’s vibrant cultural milieu. Yet, for Cajuns, descendants of French settlers exiled from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in the mid-eighteenth century, this sense of celebration has always been mixed with sorrow. By focusing on Cajun music and dance and the ways they convey the dual experiences of joy and pain, Disenchanting Les Bons Temps illuminates the complexities of Cajun culture. Charles J. Stivale shows how vexed issues of cultural identity and authenticity are negotiated through the rich expressions of emotion, sensation, sound, and movement in Cajun music and dance.

Stivale combines his personal knowledge and love of Cajun music and dance with the theoretical insights of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari to consider representations of things Cajun. He examines the themes expressed within the lyrics of the Cajun musical repertoire and reflects on the ways Cajun cultural practices are portrayed in different genres including feature films, documentaries, and instructional dance videos. He analyzes the dynamic exchanges between musicians, dancers, and spectators at such venues as bars and music festivals. He also considers a number of thorny socio-political issues underlying Cajun culture, including racial tensions and linguistic isolation. At the same time, he describes various efforts by contemporary musicians and their fans to transcend the limitations of cultural stereotypes and social exclusion.

Disenchanting Les Bons Temps will appeal to those interested in Cajun culture, issues of race and ethnicity, music and dance, and the intersection of French and Francophone studies with Anglo and American cultural studies.


"Disenchanting Les Bons Temps is an elegant riddle that stands above a book that takes up Cajun music and tells the story of the author's immersion into its ambient culture. The book accomplishes two principal tasks. It brings Cajun music into the growing field of cultural studies, a discipline, neither fish nor fowl, that marries theories based on total social facts--facts that determine the patterns, orders, and events of history--to sociology. Not anthropology, yet nonetheless a human science, cultural studies cuts a path between synchronic analysis of social groups and treatment of conceptual formations that determine how people live their lives." — Tom Conley , SubStance

"Expands the reader's critical understanding of the paradoxes of cultural constructs and the borders between them, while masterfully guiding the reader through some difficult critical territory, systematically resituating , and reinforcing its major arguments. . . . By the close of this engaging amalgam of scholarly discourse and personal passion, it's a good bet the reader will share the author's enchantment with hybridity and his hope for continued growth and expansion of Cajun cultural practices." — Les Essif, L’Esprit Créateur

"[T]he first genuinely scholarly treatment of the music of the Louisiana Acadians. . . . [T]his study addresses important cultural matters—film, music events, sociopolitical tensions. . . . Recommended." — T. E. Miller , Choice

"[V]ery informative. . . . [C]lear, concise, and rich in historical and bibliographical data." — Eric Sellin , International Journal of Francophone Studies

"An outstanding addition to the scholarship in cultural studies and French and Francophone studies, Stivale's book cuts across several disciplines and brilliantly integrates first-hand ethnographic work with close literary and textual analysis. This is perhaps his most important contribution to the current literature. Indeed, this volume will draw readers from a variety of disciplines and will fit well in several courses including French and Francophone cultures, approaches to (French) cultural studies, ethnomusicology, and anthropology." — Denis M. Provencher , French Review

"Charles J. Stivale’s new book, Disenchanting Les Bons Temps was inspired by his years of experience in the sweaty dancehalls of the Louisiana bayous. From his practice of Cajun waltzes, two-steps and jitterbugs, Stivale developed a complex appreciation of a regional folk culture facing the dilemmas of commodification as its music and cuisine have entered the American mainstream. This not only helped Stivale understand the beauty and art in Cajun culture; it helped him become a better dancer." — Vince Carducci , Metro Times (Detroit)

Disenchanting Les Bons Temps is an outstanding and original contribution to both the literatures on popular/folk music and to contemporary debates about the practice of cultural studies.” — Lawrence Grossberg, author of Bringing It All Back Home: Essays on Cultural Studies

”Charles J. Stivale has a unique ability to bring together his deep and fluent understanding of Deleuzean theory with his passion and enthusiasm for Cajun music. It's not an obvious combination of elements, but Stivale pulls it off with grace and skill. I attribute that to the clear way that his love for the diverse ingredients of this scholarly gumbo shines through his prose.” — Gilbert B. Rodman, author of Elvis after Elvis: The Posthumous Career of a Living Legend


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Charles J. Stivale is Professor of French at Wayne State University. He is the author of several books including The Two-Fold Thought of Deleuze and Guattari: Intersections and Animations.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: “The Good Times Are Killing Me” 1

1. Becoming-Cajun 9

2. (Geo)graphies of (Dé)paysement: Dislocation and Unsettling in the Cajun Music Repertoire 40

3. “J’ai Été au Bal”: Cajun Sights and Sounds 73

4. Feeling the Event: Spaces of Affects and the Cajun Dance Arena 110

5. Disenchanting Les Bons Temps

6. Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler, or, Death and Life in the Cajun Dance Arena 158

Notes 169

Works Cited 193

Index 211
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Winner, 2004 Wayne State University Board of Governors Faculty Recognition Award

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3020-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3033-2
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